The Airship Destroyer – Edwardian-Era Summer Blockbuster
There is nothing new under the sun. This short silent movie from 1909 includes pretty much every main feature associated with your annual Michael Bay explodathon. Observe:
- Central character is a plucky young chap, apparently some sort of boffin, who begins the film courting his lady love. But no! Their romance is frustrated by her disapproving father.
- A sudden attack by a faceless, technologically advanced enemy! With their airborne war machines they bring only destruction and cannot be reasoned with.
- Plenty of cutting edge sfx footage, mostly involving things being exploded. Some of it shown a couple of times to fill time.
- Someone on the ground driving like crazy, trying to avoid the death raining down around them.
- The military try to fight back, but their aircraft are no match for the invaders!
- Sweeping disaster-porn shot of a burning city.
- The hero’s beloved is in danger, he rushes in bravely to save her! Oh, but too late for father!
- Time to strike back – with the experimental weapon the protagonist has been working on. The hateful airship is blasted from the skies!
- Hurrah! The foe is defeated and the loving couple are reunited. Everyone acts like they’ve won the war, with no mention of all the other airships shown earlier.
So there you have it. A sci-fi movie that mostly consists of violent spectacle, with a dodgily-resolved romantic subplot and a climax that involves an airborne fortress being hit by a cruise missile. About the only thing missing is the wisecracking ethnic sidekick, which is for the best seeing as in this case he would have been played by someone in blackface. How far we’ve come, eh?