When other reviews are more entertaining than the movie, then the movie probably isn’t so hot. A Jules Verne adaptation is a good idea, a decent rivalry between the two leads doesn’t hurt, and Victorian sci-fi is a rare treat.
But it doesn’t really ‘get off the launchpad’ for me. The main problem is the agonizing length. Never has there been a spaceship that survives so many meltdowns. I kept wishing that the meteorite shower would come back and finish them off. The spacecraft itself is pretty cool–as others have noted, the copious woodwork and generally ornate fittings make it seem very 1868.
The nostalgia here operates on many levels. We’re seeing a sixty-year-old film about mythical events occurring ninety years before that, involving a futuristic premise. Therefore I can easily buy into the drawing-room atmosphere of the spaceship, with its decent 1950s glowing hardware on board. But I can’t buy the ever-present crane holding the ship up whenever we have an exterior shots.
With the exception of the ‘X’ cannon demonstration, and Cotten’s character meeting a very believable President Grant, most of the preliminary scenes just get in the way. The copious renditions of ‘Yankee Doodle’ are dumped into too many scenes. Some of the period details are haphazard too.
The guys milling about in some of the public scenes look more like marching bandsmen than soldiers. As Cotten gives a speech to his workers, we see what appears to be a Russian and a French officer in full-dress uniforms among the luminaries standing behind him. The French guy shows up in a later scene too. But, if foreign nations have supposedly cold-shouldered us for developing the ‘X’ energy source/weapon, why are they sending observers?
It’s also weird, and tied more closely to the plot, when Cotten wins over his nemesis by pointing out how ‘X’ will “save millions of lives.” But it’s stunningly obvious (by 1958) that misuse of nuclear power (‘X’) has actually put humanity at greater risk.
I also don’t see that the subplot of some of the experts/investors insisting that the whole thing is a hoax. They saw the crew enter the spaceship and watched it take off; anybody sneaking out at the last minute would have been blown to bits.
I really wanted to like From the Earth to the Moon, but it kept sabotaging its mission.