The First Special Effects

Colin Marshall reviews the pioneering short film A Trip to the Moon:

If you’ve taken a film studies course, you’ve almost certainly seen the work of Georges Méliès. His 1902 short A Trip to the Moon, at the top, which some cinema scholars cite as the picture where special effects as we know them began, has a particularly important place in cinema history. Nobody who watches that fourteen-minute production ever forgets the image of the moon’s consternation after the protagonists’ spacecraft crashes into it. And the rest of the movie, if narratively shaky, still has an impressive visual power. If anybody had both sufficient imagination and sufficient know-how to commit such a voyage to that cutting-edge medium known as motion film over a century ago, the theater owner and seasoned illusionist Méliès did. Charged by the cinematic pioneering of his countrymen the Lumière brothers, he began doing it in 1896, and continued until 1913, which makes A Trip to the Moon a mid-career highlight.