Random Film of the Week(end): When Worlds Collide


When Worlds Collide MPYou know we’re screwed as a species when the wealthy ones start talking about packing up and moving to Mars with increasing fervor while failing to mention that, oh yeah – the poor people aren’t getting up there at all with their crime and diseases and lack of money and such. While it’s a wonderful idea to pick up and leave an old house and hoof it over to a new one if you can afford it, the truth of the matter is it’s not quite that simple. EVERYTHING on any planet that’s not Earth-like will need to be paid for and shipped from air to water to food to people to get things up and running so all of those things required for living can be manufactured on that new old planet. Relying on shipments from Earth once one is on Mars is pretty much the worst idea ever (well, next to thinking a trip to Mars isn’t going to cost a lot more money, time and lives than anyone can imagine should a single thing go wrong in transit), but I don’t expect to change the minds of those committed to this expensive errand.

Instead, I’d highly recommend those people determined to go (and those of us headed for the history books) to watch Rudolph Maté’s When Worlds Collide, the classic 1951 sci-fi drama produced by George Pal and based on the book by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer that’s somewhat dated on many fronts, but still packs quite a wallop in terms of its visual effects that probably sent plenty of paranoid theater-goers home to cower under the covers for a while despite the somewhat hopeful ending (well, for SOME lucky space travelers)…

Some of what’s taking place now mirror events in the film such as the dire warnings about disaster (in the film’s case, it’s a planetary collision) that get ho-hummed by skeptics despite the increasing threat, the wealthy industrialists and others who fund the space program that only has room for a very select few (chosen via lottery) and of course, the panic that sets in amongst the general public when they realize that their days are numbered and that clock is ticking down faster than they think. Granted, none of those current real Mars rockets that can carry actual people in a trip they can survive has been made (yet) and the film’s super-fast timetable is somewhat ludicrous (as is the “science” in it). On the other hand, the somewhat speedy way out of death presented here (that new planet just so happens to have an atmosphere!) makes one realize how not so well off we are in actual emergencies that demand our attention because we always seem to wait until something terrifically awful happens before scrambling around looking for a solution.

There’s a bunch of that in the film going on, but the focus is more on the handsome scientists doing their thing and trying to deal with everything from skepticism, apathy and interference (the UN gets a sharp stick poke here), a rich jerk who wants to choose who gets saved, and of course, the impending destruction of all this formerly lovely real estate we call home. There’s a decidedly biblical aspect to the film where you can see those spaceships being stocked with people and animals as arks of a sort, and yes, there’s a big flood and a number of other Academy Award-winning visual effects that would be overdone today with too much CGI effects work to the point of overkill. Speaking of overkill, of course there are massive riots worldwide when people who haven’t been picked to leave show up at the launch spots to try and get off the planet before that second big bang erases it from memory, but the film is predictable enough that you know they’ve got no chance. Hooray for trying, I guess?

Anyway, this is one of those paranoia-inducing films for some people that will set them off and send them to Home Depot or some other hardware store looking for stuff to build their own rocket with. If you want double the “fun” for your depression, pair this with Lars von Treir’s spectacularly gloomy and even more gorgeous Melancholia for a film night you’ll want some cheering up from afterwards. Hell, you may as well enjoy what life on this planet we have left, right? Now, if you need me, I’ll be stocking up on ice cream and pillows. I intend to go out with a few pints in me while sitting in bed and playing a few videogames or watching a bunch of old comedies. It may take a bunch of years for this to happen, but one has to be ready for this stuff, right?


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