Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Hole In The Head: Monsters From The Id


This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Monsters from the Id, the only documentary in this year's Another Hole in the Head fest, is a film with an agenda. It's an entertaining agenda, but an agenda nonetheless, and therefore falls less into the realm of "documentary" and more into the realm of "thesis statement," or, as my moviegoing companion deemed it, "infomercial for a career in science."

The main point of the film is that the science fiction movies of the 1950s had a direct influence on the brainy kids of the day, influencing many of them to enter into careers in science. And this at least holds true for the scientists interviewed for the movie, which include Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys, which was made into the film October Sky. It's just too bad the director couldn't just let these men talk, instead of forcing an imposing soundtrack over every second of the film, even to the point that it clashes with the soundtracks of the film clips featured. The movie would be a lot more fun if it wasn't so damn...noisy.

And the numerous movie clips that are included in the doc certainly maintain the premise that in 1950s science fiction, it's scientists and smart guys who conquer the monsters and aliens in the end, not sheer brute force. But anyone who has seen a lot of these 1950s films knows that science is not always the savior, and is often to very cause of monstrous calamities. Even the film that the doc takes its title from, Forbidden Planet, includes a military hero, and a scientist whose experiments ultimately lead to the complete destruction of a planet.

It's not imperative that all science be "good" science to influence a generation of braniacs, just a little myopic to assume 1950s science fiction was really that much different from the science fiction of later generations. Although I do think it is true most sci-fi these days probably doesn't have the influence on youngsters it may have had in the past, this probably has more to do with the "novelty" of the atomic age. The atom is old news these days, and the biggest influence the science fiction of today probably has is on kids wanting to work for ILM, not NASA.

(As the festival program notes, this flick is suitable for the entire family, but the short that's playing with it, called "Eat Me," most definitely is not.)

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