The film industry saw dynamic changes after the Second World War, which made Hollywood change its content and style. The Hollywood film industry experienced booming years between 1939 and 1946 with the industry significantly. As a result, their attendance and box receipts declined to almost half of the 1946 levels within seven years. The changes were triggered by many factors, most of which were external to the industry. In 1950, the movies were challenged and surpassed by television as the most known entertainment form in America. During the 1940s, the film played an essential role in shaping speech patterns, political viewpoints dressing styles, and moral attitudes. During the post-World War, most Americans owned televisions, which replaced movies as a dominant influence of the culture. This new medium could reach a wide range of audiences than the one attracted by motion pictures as images could be projected right into people’s homes. The formation of HUAC and the following events led to Hollywood being discouraged from producing politically controversial films. The widescreens and color cinematography were a core factor in reshaping the content of science fiction films and Hollywood movies. This paper discusses the post-war aesthetics of visual effects and the social-cultural implications revealed by the narratives, sequences, scenes, and setups produced by the impact.
The science fiction of postwar reflected some conditions of the Second World War through monster characters, space discovery, the modernity of the urban, and how the Hollywood studio used the analog visual effects. In the 1950s, the studio system had matured and represented the modernity of the postwar time through the narrative implication, periodical background, and setting of the science fiction films. The Hollywood transition in its meanings and techniques of creating visual effects reflects the transformation of culture from warlike to postmodernism state. Science fiction involves visual effects that develop by utilizing the change of structure of the systems of production and technological advancement. The classical Hollywood was actively controlled by the studio system as the mode of production gave birth to the creation of digital effects, especially with the concept rise of blockbuster and the emergence of new computer technologies. The postwar films were comprised of a characteristic feature of compressing time and space that occurred in the transition from Fordism to flexible accumulation and reveals that compressing time and space generates a process of development from analog visual effects like front projection to the digital effects like rotoscoping. The visual effects of the 1930s to 1940s are quite different from those of the 1950s onwards as the latter had qualitatively more exceptional examples of matte painting and rear projection, which was the trend of making films.
The Forbidden Planet formed the beginning of the era of science fiction, whose basic setting represented the Cold War. Fred Wilcox, the author of the Forbidden Planet film, vividly illustrated the cultural aftermath of World War II. The film, together with others like The Star Trek released in 1966 by Gene Roddenberry and The Angry Red Planet by Ib Melchior released in 1959, featured the spaceships which were utilized in the military aircraft to conquer the planets instead of the average civil aviation. The films also feature human characters instead of aliens, who were showed dressed in uniforms to show the strict hierarchy following the ranks of the military. For instance, the costume in Forbidden Planet resembles closely with the uniform by the United States Navy worn in the Second World war. The uniform had futuristic laser blast color with command mikes in the waists being the only difference. The lives showed too ordinary, and can be concluded to transfuse to those of the Second World War. The soldiers in uniform in the science fiction films the original Star Wars and The Forbidden Planet obey the hierarchy and the dazzling scenes of dogfight to represent modernity and postwar times in the superficial periodical settings. The crew dialog is comprised of orders and responses clearly representing the typical military hierarchy. It is worth noting that Forbidden Planet uses a unique style of dialogue quite different from the other science fiction films. This is portrayed in how the crew answers with “Aye, aye, sir” Naval style. The film, therefore, has a more realistic representation of the atmosphere in the Second World War through the spatial background of the planet Altair IV. The Behavior of the crew mirror what the soldiers of World War II did in their vacations. In the scene where Altaira makes a first appearance, all the crews, Farmen, Dr, Ostrow, and Adams, get charmed by her.
One of them, Farmen, attempts to flirt with her by suggesting a cup of coffee. In another scene, when Adam comes to a view monitoring check-up from the spaceship, Altaira receives a call from Chief Quinn. The image of soldiers during the Second World War is clearly portrayed in this scene, illustrating the typical moments of war films when soldiers are on vacation like it is shown in the film From Here to Eternity by Fred Zinnemann (1953). Moreover, the landscapes featured in the science fiction apply a cinematic technique to portray the Cold War battlefields. This is shown in Forbidden Planet, where the house of Dr. Morbius is shown as “a Southern Californian-style high modernist household that has a full landscape and furnishings (Lerer 2000, p.84). The landscape is, however, not a beach, although viewers can see the desert via the walls of the glass surrounding the living room. The cinematic application of this desert is that of “Southern California Wilderness” (p.84). This kind of setting in the Forbidden Planet, although somehow tries to deal with the future, draws the audience’s attention more to the past than the future.
Science Fiction films depict monster characters like Darth Vader in the film Star Wars, Hal in the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, and Id in the Forbidden Planet, who represent a reflection of the Cold War-era paranoia and maintains the self/awakening possibility of the enemy attack. The films value rationality of anything strange, unreasonable, and unknown, with humans justifying the distorted effects of the civilization of machinery through humanity, including Luke’s Force, the intelligence of Bowman, and the leadership of Adam. The films explicitly distinguish between wartimes and post-war development. There is extensive use of Cel animation that supports the Forbidden Planet’s application of Freudian psychoanalysis. Hollywood made exclusive use of the subjective quintessentially modern theory hence granting the film a postwar development. Appearances of cel animation are made in moments filled with significant dramatic tension, that is when the monster makes appearances in Forbidden Planet. Audiences only perceive the footprint movements of the monsters since they are invisible. The only time it is seen is when it crashes on an electric fence or when hit by beams from the ray guns of crews. Cel animation draws the contour of the monster and visualizes the tension rising in the Cold War periods. The Forbidden Planet film unfolds the Freudian psychoanalysis, which remains among the significantly influential psychotherapy from the 1950s to 1970s. The monster represents the character of Dr. Morbius, who was obsessed excessively with future technology as it is the case with that of the United States in acquiring technology in the period of war. In a particular scene, Dr. Morbius attempts to hide the Krell technology to the C-57D crew to remind viewers of the war information about the new technology during the period of the Second World War. In self-sacrifice, the Altair IV is destroyed to portray the mixed desire and fear of technology during the periods of war. The cel animation, therefore, represents the postwar development through the Id of Dr. Morbius monster. It is a Freudian psychoanalysis cinematic embodiment of the extreme obsession with the Cold War advanced technology.
Time-space compression began in the 1950s with Tron providing the first model in the realm of visual effects. Time-space compression exists in the film itself and the process of production. In the film Tron, there is a scene where Flynn hangs on a Solar Sailer operated by Tron and Yori to synthesize the landscape withing the CG computer, the live-action footage of Flynn and the solar Sailer which was computer-generated. The scene has projections of different periods as well as spaces, where a virtual camera captures the time-space compression. This kind of digital compression can be thought of as a reflection of the time-space compression of the perspectives of culture. The CGIs were produced at different times and places and compressed into single space and time. The elements of style used in the Tron film comprise bricolage, which is extracted from the space of the scientific film. The used elements of style, which include editing, cinematography, mise-en-scene, and sound, are appropriated mostly from the ones in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, or the Star Trek. Tron draws space representation from the earlier scientific films of space. For example, the Sark’s Carrier moving in the air looks more like the mothership’s flying in space in the scientific films.
The Science fiction films of the 1950s reveal a leitmotif space conquest that represents the grand recourse of discovering space from then to the 1980s when the United States maintained a Cold War with the Soviet Union. Soviet Union launched Sputnik I.A, their original artificial satellite in 1857, when the history of exploring space was initiated. The United States, later in 1958 launched the Explorer after receiving the impetus from the space advancement of the Soviet Union. The first human to orbit the earth was a Russian named Yuri Gagarin who orbited for 108 minutes initiating the stiff competition of exploring the space between the Soviet Union and the United States (Park, 2005). The United States since then concentrated its technology and energy into space exploration, eventually launching the Apollo Rockets between the 1960s and 1970s, making the climax for the space race. This illustrates a new age of exploring the space, which was an aspect significant to the policies of the Cold War.
The space exploration grant narrative, which was initiated in 1957 at the time of the Cold War influenced the Science Fiction film genre space. Robert Wise in 1954 produced The Day the Earth Stood Still, which represented the tension brought about by the Cold War in the relationship between one of the ideal American character named Klaatu and a monster figure known as Gort. The science fiction films 20 Million Miles to Earth by Nathan Juran (1957, Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel (1956) and The Forbidden Planet mirrored the outer world was growing interest in the 1950s post-war times. The space discovery competition peaked between the 1960 and 1970 years, with more science fiction films continuously updating it in the films Queen of Blood by Curtis Harrington in 1965, Mutiny in Outer Space by Hugo Grimaldi in 1964, A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick in 1968, Marooned by John Sturges in 1969 and finally the Silent Running by Douglas Trumbell in 1972.
Science fiction films make use of analog visual effects that reveal the efficiency of the studio system in the post-wartime. The effects commonly utilized in them include front projection and matte painting. Hollywood studios found it hard to produce set and therefore used Matte painting to replace it as well as to reduce the location cost of shooting. This made the work of the producers economic and with greater efficiency. On the other hand, front and rear projection improve the aesthetics of the modernism of the science fiction films under the Fordist economic system by displacing time and space of the background scenery previously filmed of the tradition of attractions of the cinema. The first project had an application named Zoptic system, which was introduced in Superman. The application raises the perspective sense in the long fight of Superman. The film Star Wars was supported by the motion control system to take scenes with realistic dogfights in the Hollywood studio freely. The films Star Wars, Forbidden Planet, Superman, and 2001: A Space Odyssey can be used to illustrate visual effects in the analog era reflect Cold War in Postwar development. The 1954 Forbidden Planet film represents the blockbuster film and makes the audience appreciate the worth of the matte painting.
On the other hand, 2001: A Space Odyssey portrays a revolutionary film when looking at the perspective of the visual effects. The beauty of space is clearly described through the front projection. The film brings out exquisite accordance between the audio score and the visual image with some philosophical depth that takes the film to the stage of the arts. Hollywood also produced the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, marking a unique and new spectacle epoch such as the Zoptic and in it, is a reality of urban modernity.
Most Science fiction films are city-oriented and use a symbol of the contemporary cityscape as the main stage of the actions of the hero in Superman. Clark Kent in Superman migrates from Smallville to Metropolis, where he practices his ambition of serving the people. According to Nitin Govil (2002), the narratives of science fiction come from the modernity experiences of the urban. There is a narrative of upward modernity that provides Superman with urban modernization leitmotif revealed in the story of a country boy going to a metropolis to look for his success. Superman flies through the Metropolis Skyscraper to represent postwar development.
The science fiction films of 1950s factors in a technological state that represents specials effects of tour de force. In addition, the science fiction was enriched by a sense of wonder, which widens its meaning and scope, as seen in The Forbidden Planet’s main themes. This technological state has remained intact over time, with Forbidden Planet standing the test of time more than it was imagined initially. David Hartwell also provides a sense of wonder in his Age of Wonders, portraying the wideness of space and time in an exciting science of fiction. This sense of humor and wonder in science fiction provided audiences with a vicarious experience of extraordinary events as they perceive time-scales and forces much more than one can witness in the course of their life. The film Forbidden Planet is an excellent example of movies that readily puts the audience face to face with the marvels of the possible. The film incorporates various technological developments of postwar Hollywood filmmaking with each producing significance effects. The forbidden planet shows how science fiction is an ideal genre through which the anxieties of the Cold War politics can be explored adequately. The context of America in the 1950s is well related through the ways in which the science fiction film presents the issues of sexual politics and gender. Generally, the science fiction in the 1950s presented viewers with an imaginative translation of a cultural makeup which allowed people to synthesize geographic nexus like America and postwar developments.