Monday, February 13, 2017

When Worlds Collide

When Worlds Collide; science-fiction / disaster film, USA, 1951; D: Rudolph Mate, S: Richard Derr, Larry Keating, Barbara Rush

One Observatory in South Africa makes a frightening discovery and sends a courier, Randall, to travel to New York and give the data files personally to astronomer Dr Hendron. He concluded that the calculations made no error: a giant rogue planet, Bellus, is heading towards Earth, and it will destroy it in a year. The only thing that can be done, according to Dr. Hendron, is to use the money of the rich, wheel-chair bound Stanton, and construct a modern "Noah's Ark", a rocket which will bring animals, food and 44 people who will try to reach Zyra, a planet orbiting Bellus, which may have similar conditions as Earth. On the day of the predicted collision, the rocket starts with Randall and the crew, and lands on Zyra, which has a habitable climate and vegetation.

It is a peculiarity how such a stimulative concept can be executed in such a tiresome and bland manner. But precisely such a thing befell Rudolph Mate's film adaptation of the popular novel "When Worlds Collide" by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, which basically shows only a narrow perspective of what would happen if humanity found out a rogue planet is going to collide with Earth. The characters are boring, speaking out tiresome, monotone dialogues, whereas the story only focuses on the crew building the space rocket, instead of also showing what is going on around the world when people find out about such a catastrophic and dark upcoming event. For instance, planet Bellus was discovered in an observatory in South Africa, but we are never shown what happens to the astronomers after that. How would the people react around the world? Would they commit mass suicide? Dig underground caves? Spend all their money before the end? Reconcile and solve all their conflicts one last time before the disaster? The film shows nothing of that (save for a vague stock footage of evacuation of civilians and a prayer of people in black and white), and thus the viewers do not get a scale of such a cosmic threat nor all the rich possibilities the story could have offered. Even more bizarre, there is not a single shot of space until the last 10 minutes, and the only threat that manifests is the red planet Bellus getting bigger and bigger in the sky. But it gets even more uneven than that, since we are never shown if Bellus really destroyed Earth or not, since all of that is not mentioned once the rocket flies away. A similar "Nibiru" concept was filmmed 11 years later with the weak "Gorath", but it wasn't all until the excellent "Queen Millennia" that this concept was given justice when Matsumoto exploited all the rich potentials of it to the maximum.


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