Forbidden Planet (1956)

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In 1956, the final flickering hope for the eventual colonization of Venus died when the planetary surface temperature was measured, via emitted microwaves, to far exceed the boiling point of water. That same year, the film industry created a replacement colony with Forbidden Planet, loosely adapted from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Deserted islands and planets share an intrinsic feature: as the vestiges of civilization crumble, humanity regresses. Caliban fostered a murderous plot against Prospero in The Tempest, and English school children hunted each other for sport in William Golding's 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies. Forbidden Planet, as it turned out, was no exception.

Forbidden Planet opens in the future, with a United Planets search and retrieve rescue mission to Altair-4. Twenty years earlier, a prospecting team aboard the Bellerophon landed and lost contact with civilization. Bellerophon, in an ominous bit of foreshadowing, was the Corinthian hero in Greek mythology who defeated the chimera with Pegasus, only to dramatically prove that humans are not gods as he plunged to his death trying to reach Mount Olympus. In the future, hyperdrive has made travel at light speed possible, furthering the deep colonization of space. Even so, it's a year-long trip out to the Altair system and the all-male rescue crew is getting a bit... restless.

The odds look good for survivors when Doctor Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), a member of the original crew, warns them away from the planet. Commander Adams (Leslie Nielson, with nary a trace of Police Squad) disregards the warning and is greeted at the landing site by Robbie the Robot, zipping in directly off the pages of Asimov's I, Robot. Robbie transports Adams and two of the crew (let's call them Spock and McCoy) to the pretentious philologist (it's never explained what a linguist was doing on a ship to a supposedly deserted planet) and his beautiful daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis). Morbius treats them to a synthetic lunch (Robbie, apparently, is a god and can create matter out of nothing), orders Robbie to shoot Adams (Robbie can't, as he strictly obeys all Laws of Robotics), and tells a strange tale about his entire expedition being destroyed by a malevolent force that left him untouched. No one believes him.

Meanwhile, the crew starts cannibalizing their ship to build a communications satellite. Cookie, the rascally chef, has finagled Robbie into manufacturing rocket bourbon, and the Spock predecessor (acting decidedly unSpocklike), gives the wickedly sexy Alta kissing lessons. That night, an invisible being sabotages the communications equipment, forcing Adams to pay another visit to Morbius and his scantily clad daughter. Turns out Morbius is hiding an entire subterranean world of technology - including an IQ doubler - left by the former inhabitants of Altair, the Krells. Morbius loftily informs Adams "One does not look on the face of the Gordon and live", mocks Adams' inferior "monkey brain" and refuses to share his technological discovery with humanity. Morbius is fairly odious.

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The following night, the invisible monster returns and kills several crew members. Morbius reminds Adams of his unheeded warning and predicts great bloodshed later. Much as he'd like to blame him, Adams was with Morbius during the attacks, and Cookie was boozing it up with Robbie. Adams decides to abandon planet and convinces Altaira to leave with him. Meanwhile, the McCoy predecessor fatally doubles his IQ and deduces that they're being attacked by a Krell-enhanced physical manifestation of Morbius' id (although, truthfully, Alta would be the more logical suspect). Morbius, horrified at his inner demon, stops the attack by obliterating his mind. Right before he dies, he initiates a planet-wide self-destruct mechanism, fulfilling his desire never to have to share the Krell technology. Adams and Altaira depart as Morbius and the Forbidden Planet explodes in a flash of blue light.

While Doctor Morbius's inflated ego caused endless unpleasant friction, it was the base nature of his id that ultimately destroyed Altair-4. The forbidden planet contained knowledge and technology that far surpassed human responsibility (or Krell responsibility, as they were destroyed by their own devices), providing a not-so-subtle societal warning about the instability of human nature, especially in regards to destructive technology.

Altair-4 started as an Eden paradise where wild animals interacted with the innocent Altaira. The search and rescue mission compromised the paradise by introducing vice to the planet in the form of alcohol and lonely men. When Altaira started to explore the vices, it sufficiently enraged Morbius to ultimately manifest her fall from paradise. While the planetary Eden thrived, the civilization was predestined to fail. It's nearly impossible to maintain a civilized society on a deserted locale with just a hermit father and his daughter. Especially when the father is a bit of a monster.


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