Film Review: Aelita: Queen of Mars
Welcome to Mars, a planet with pretty strict immigration policies and a third of its populace packed away on ice. A society that’s no stranger to jealousy, where the citizens cavort through preposterously angled landscapes in their scintillating headdresses. A land where luscious Queen Aelita reigns but doesn’t rule!
If you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that Martians are ugly, balding pygmies with three arms, I’d suggest you get your ass over to the Tower and check this movie out. It is a visionary Russian epic, circa 1924, that for my money depicts Martians as they ought to be.
These Martians live in an ultra haute environment, something akin to a party in L.A.. Aelita is the queen of the planet—a total knockout whose everyday attire puts today’s fashion victims to shame. Her personal maid is no slouch either, and loyal enough to kill. The stately king is kind of a drag, but his right hand man, Gol, is a scientific super-stud, creator of the Tower of Radiant Energy. His only fault is allowing the queen to peek into the tower and observe humanity, showing particular interest in the custom of a kiss. With a woman like Aelita around, it’s hard to believe the silly Martians couldn’t devise this pleasure themselves.
When most conversations steer toward films that were ahead of their time, names like Metropolis and Wayne’s World are dropped. Somehow, Aelita is not mentioned. As mentioned above, the Russian vision of Mars is pretty kick-ass. I wouldn’t be surprised if the late Gene Roddenberry watched this a dozen times before madly obsessing his life with Star Trek. Of course, Mars scenes are only a third of what would be billed as a largely pro-revolutionary melodrama. Even the rest of it has enough inspiring moments to make worthwhile.
One comrade, Los, has dreams of building a spaceship and booking to Mars. He can’t trust his wife and finds that only so many society reforms can be performed. So, one day he returns to Moscow, gets angry and shoots his wife…or so we think. He dons a disguise, builds a rocket, and flies to Mars, where the Queen awaits and uses him to conduct her own revolution.
But, it’s all just a dream! In the end the pot shots at his wife never really hit. He learns his lessons in love and politics, finally tossing his life’s work into the fireplace. This sci-fi epic is shrewdly clever and well structured. Serious at the core, yet still has the audacity to jump into slapstick realms, particularly with the wanna-be detective who’s a dead-ringer for the late Benny Hill (who I’m sure saw this film at least a dozen times before stardom.) The little detective conducts a citizen’s arrest as he flies off to Mars with Los. Realizing his predicament, he waits patiently till they land before urging the Martians to uphold universal law.
I was somewhat upset to find out that the whole thing was a dream, particularly in lieu of the manner it’s revealed, but I’ll be damned if this ain’t the most cutting edge films of its time. Besides, if it wasn’t a dream, then our own blessed country would no doubt have jumped into a Cold War with the Martian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Film Review: High Heels
Film Review: The Doors
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