The 1950's was an idealistic time in American History, filled with hope, opportunity, and wonder. It was also, "The Atomic Age" where new technology promised to both save humanity as well ...
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The 1950's was an idealistic time in American History, filled with hope, opportunity, and wonder. It was also, "The Atomic Age" where new technology promised to both save humanity as well as put it in jeopardy. All of these factors gave birth to one of the most prolific genres in film history, 1950's Science Fiction Cinema. More then just bug eyed monsters and little green men, 1950's Sci-fi Cinema provided science inspiration for millions of eager youths across the country. Then after 1957 and the launch of Sputnik, science fiction became science fact as an inspired population worked toward one of the greatest achievements of mankind, spaceflight. Monsters From The Id weaves the intersecting themes of over thirty classic films in order to tell the untold story of the Modern Scientist and his role in inspiring a nation. The film continues to explore the psychological and cultural impact of 1950's Sci-Fi cinema in America and asks, "where is science inspiration found today?" Written by
"Monsters from the Id" examines the image of the scientist in 1950s sci-fi films. The thesis, to a certain degree, is that people were inspired by the heroic portrayal of science and scientists in these films, became scientists themselves, and America became the world leader in scientific endeavors. Today, however, America is lagging in its production of scientists, and this is probably due in part to the portrayal of scientists on our movie screens.
One thing I have noticed is that in recent years, especially in science fiction films, the role of science and the scientist has become ambiguous, if not downright negative. In the 1950s, scientists often caused problems but they usually determined how to save us from those problems. The ultimate outcome of the majority of those films was that science was beneficial, not harmful. Today it seems that science is usually the villain, often portrayed as ineffectual--the lackeys of corporations and/or the military--if not evil themselves.
I'm not asserting that science should be exempt from critique. Indeed, throughout the history of science there have been thoughtful critiques of science and scientists. For example, H. G. Wells's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" critiques the amoral scientist who is insensitive to the pain of other beings in his quest for knowledge. But what Wells didn't do was criticize the entire enterprise of science, only a particular practice. I think too many people--comfortable in the benefits derived from science, ironically--now doubt the value of science.
I think the benefits of "Monsters from the Id" are twofold. First, it helps us understand the history of the representation of science and scientists. Not only does it help us see this, but it does so in an entertaining way. Second, it makes us aware of how present-day images may be working to shape our perceptions. I think such an awareness can only be empowering.
One drawback of the film is that it doesn't contain many (or any, that I can remember) modern SF clips. I would have liked some clips from more recent films to illustrate negative images of scientists. Another strike against the film is the excessive use of background music. I would rather just watch the clips and listen to the interviewees sans music, thank you.
All in all, though, a very good documentary if you like SF films and enjoy the topic of science in the media.
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