Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's Not Sci-Fi, It's Science Fiction -- Reflections on "Moon" (2009)

You mean this movie might make me think about more than aliens? Damn!
I'll be honest. Moon is not for everyone. It's a thinking man's science fiction film. Notice I didn't say Sci-Fi film. Sci-Fi seems to imply aliens, laser weapons, and preposterous high concepts that have very little in common with science and more in common with fantasy. I don't mean to imply that this is a bad thing, although after seeing Species, you might have a change of heart.

Moon has more in common with Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey than it does with our more modern "man in space" stories, like Pitch Black and Mission to Mars. It's not a masterpiece, but it is pretty terrific. This is the debut film from director Duncan Jones, whose father, rock-icon David Bowie, knew a little bit about space himself.

Basics: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works in a space station on the moon in charge of mining a element that has solved Earth's energy crisis. His three-year contract is about to end, meaning he'll finally get to go home and be with his beautiful wife and daughter again. A few days before freedom, though, Sam has an accident in one of the space vehicles, and when he comes to he discovers he isn't who he thought he was.

Solid Like a Rockwell: Sam Rockwell is pretty much the star of the show, and he has to pull off a mighty acting task by playing different versions of his character. He manages to make each version of himself markedly different and unique, as if each really is a different character. Sure, the make-up department helped a bit with this, but Rockwell's performance is riveting and never lets us take our eyes off of him when he's on screen.

Cabin Fever: Duncan Jones makes excellent use of space all throughout this film, not just in the exterior shots of the space station where we are constantly made aware of the vast infinity surrounding Sam. The way he uses the spaces inside the station are equally inventive, and create a real sense of claustrophobia. By the end of film, I was feeling as stir crazy as Sam was, and that's the way it should be. Moon is an intimate science fiction film about the effects of technology and progress on the little people -- the cogs in the machine -- and Jones' use of space really makes it work.

HAL's Younger Brother: In Kubrick's 2001, the most memorable character was the HAL-9000, which began to malfunction and attempt to murder his human operators. In Moon, we are presented with HAL's newest incarnation, GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). I must admit, at first I was annoyed with how much Spacey's voice seemed to be imitating HAL, but as the movie progressed I thought it was awesome. Even better, though, was that GERTY had something HAL never did -- a computer monitor on its body to show an emoticon. During conversations, the face on the screen changed to show the emotions of the machine. This touch really made the scenes with GERTY remarkably tense and gripping.

Moon is worth seeing. The only knock against it might be the pacing. It is a slow moving film, and since there is only one actor and a computer voice, it can often feel glacial. But, it is worth it. Moon is a remarkable work of science-fiction. Just make sure that you don't file it next to Men in Black -- that would be insulting.

1 comment:

  1. Moon is one of my favorite movies. I love this film. If I could've made one movie - I'd pick this one, that is how smitten I am with it.