A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forbidden Planet is a classic B-movie sci-fi film originally released in 1956. For all its "futuristic" speculation on mankind's adventures in outer space in the early 24th century, the attitudes and gender roles are rooted in the Eisenhower era. There's some kissing and a few sexual innuendos as the all-male crew of astronauts encounters the first woman they've seen in a year, but it's all pretty tame, especially by today's standards. There are brief moments of violence -- ray guns shooting at invisible aliens and such -- but they're also tame relative to the level found in current movies. The spaceship's cook has a robot make him 50 gallons of bourbon, some of which he drinks. Overall, this film is a slice of quaint kitsch from the onset of the Space Age.
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What's the story?
It's the year 2381, and Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) directs his spaceship to an Earth-like planet called Altair-4 in search of a former Earth colony that's been out of contact for many years. The ship receives a transmission from Dr. Morbius, telling the crew to go away, but they insist on landing. A huge robot named Robby brings Adams and two crew members to the home of Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon). Morbius tells them that, with the exception of Morbius and his wife, everyone else in the colony was violently killed by an unseen force, which then disappeared. Now widowed, he lives with his daughter, Alta (Anne Francis), and Robby. Alta has never seen any human other than her father. Morbius explains that a great race once lived on the planet, and he has studied their artifacts. In an attempt to use their minds and spirits to create something, he inadvertently created a creature made up of their fears and anger. It is called the Id. It reappeared when the colonists arrived, out of their subconscious urges. And, with the arrival of the crew from Earth, it has come back again. The invisible being damages the spacecraft and kills three of the crewmen before Morbius, realizing that the Id came from within him, renounces that part of himself, destroying both of them. Adams and Alta escape with the crew before the planet explodes.
Is it any good?
The gadgets and special effects seem quaint to us now, but the movie is still fun to watch for younger children, and it still raises some important questions for older ones. FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) was the first science-fiction movie set entirely on another planet. It's loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, the story of Prospero the Sorcerer and his daughter Miranda, who are alone on an island until a storm brings their former countrymen to them. Robby the Robot is the obedient Ariel. And the Id is the powerful and angry Caliban.
The Id, of course, is named for Freud's famous concept of the id, the instincts and impulses of the unconscious mind. Morbius says that he and his wife survived because they were the only ones who loved the planet and wanted to stay, that the monster was created from the fears and jealousies of the other colonists. The implication is that Morbius' jealousy when Alta falls in love with Adams brings the Id's destructiveness out again. In a way, this movie is more a way of exploring unconscious feelings we all harbor than it is speculation about life in the future or on other planets.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how science-fiction films about spaceships and aliens have changed since Forbidden Planet. How are contemporary sci-fi movies different?
Do you think we'll ever have robots like Robby? What would be the best thing about having one? Would there be any disadvantages?
Is the rule making it impossible for Robby to harm any rational beings a good one, even though it makes it impossible for him to protect the crew from the Id? Can you think of a better rule?
- In theaters: March 15, 1956
- On DVD or streaming: April 18, 2000
- Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Warren Stevens
- Director: Fred McLeod Wilcox
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Robots, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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