Title: Moon (2009)
Director: Duncan Jones
Stars: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (as the voice of GERTY 3000)
The plausible science fiction film is the one that presents us with a situation or a scenario that we can buy, that we can believe might happen. There are few science fiction films that could be included in this category of films because most science fiction films concern themselves with mixing science fiction and fantasy in the same genre. Like the Star Wars franchise for example. Yes its science fiction, but it’s about as believable as The Lord of the Rings is. On the other hand we have the serious science fiction film, the one that puts its characters and story within the reach of science. Nothing is too unbelievable in a serious science fiction film.
Take Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Moon’s most obvious influence) for example. Completely plausible. Computers will undoubtedly one day become HAL 9000. There is a very big possibility that one day we will encounter an alien species. Moon colonization isn’t too far off in the future either. Aside from that its just great film, filled with mystery, heavy themes and intrigue. In the words of Arthur C. Clark, 2001 is the “quintessential good science fiction film”. Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1975) presented us with the possibility of alien visitors in a very credible fashion. These types of science fiction films are hard a rare bird. One look at your science fiction section of your local video club will attest to this. Fortunately for us, there are those sci-fi flicks that that stick more to the science side of things. These films turn out to be more interesting for me because they feel more real. While watching these kinds of films you feel like maybe, if the technology advanced enough in the near future, what’s presented to us in the film could quite possibly happen. What plausible situation does Moon (a film that can be categorized as a serious science fiction film) present us with?
Story revolves around Sam Bell a guy whose job is to run a lunar station that mines and extracts Helium 3 from the solar surface and transforms it into clean energy for everyone back on earth. Problem is that the place runs itself, and they don’t need many employs to run it, Sam is the only employee. His duties are minor; he watches over the place making sure everything runs smoothly. His only company comes in the form of a computer named GERTY 3000. Sam has been working on the moon for three years straight and he is now ready to go back home. He misses both his wife and his daughter whom he left back on earth three years ago to take up this job. Two weeks away from ending his three year stint on the lunar base Sam begins to see strange things happening on the base. Is he alone? Is someone with him? Is his mind playing tricks on him? Is Sam going koo-koo? Will he ever get back to earth to see his wife and daughter?
Some films wear their influences on their sleeves and Moon is one of them. This is director Duncan Jones debut feature, and in it, he has decided to show us which filmmakers and films he admires. First and foremost, he is a huge fan of Kubrick. Moon owes a lot to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a fact that some might find detrimental to their enjoyment of Moon. I personally do not immediately write a film off as bad because it has elements from other films in it. I only do this when a film is a carbon copy of another, which in my opinion isn’t the case with Moon.
To me, Moon adds enough of its own flare so that it stands on its own. Still there are moments where you go “damn, that moment is straight out of 2001!” For example, when Sam is talking to his little girl on the TV-phone. Also, GERTY 3000 is an obvious nod to HAL 9000. And on this movie there’s a moment when Sam has to trick GERTY into opening some doors because GERTY doesn’t want to open them. So yeah, there are some similarities to Kubrick’s masterpiece not only with these elements I mentioned, but both in tone and look. I mean, when seeing all those white rooms in the lunar base, one cant help but think of Kubrick’s love of the color white in his films.
It has elements from Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1976) because Sam begins to see strange things on the lunar base, similar to how the astronauts who went to Solaris started seeing things once they got close to the strange planet. We also got elements from the Alien films, with the thing about the big corporation lying to its employees and having an ulterior motive for their actions. It has bits of Peter Hyam’s Outland (1979) with a guy working on a mining outpost. So yeah, this movie has influences up the wazoo, but does it bring anything new to the table?
Of course it does. Moon does what some of my favorite movies do. They summarize the director or writers view on life and encapsulate those views in one movie. This is a film that is about life, from beginning to end. What it takes to be human. It’s about being young and strong, and being old and sick. It’s about arriving into this world, and learning to accept we are someday going to depart, and that sadly, the things we leave behind will ironically outlive us. But it goes even further then that. Is what we are told when we come into the world the truth? Or is it just an illusion? Is there a bigger truth hidden somewhere deeper? Where normally we wouldn’t see it? These are the questions this film asks, and this is the reason why I thought the film went down its own path as opposed to simply being a clone of 2001. I loved the symbolisms in the film, and it’s a film that you can enjoy a whole lot more if you read into them. The films themes are squeezed in there in a very subtle manner, within its science fiction elements, but they are there.
The film is very slow in pace and it does not pretend to be more then it is: a deeply philosophical film. This is not the kind of science fiction that wants to wow you with its nifty CGI effects. Nope, this is a close encounter with science fiction of the brainy kind. It can go in the same category as films like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and Alejandro Cuaron’s Children of Men. These are science fiction films that make you think. Which of course is way better then the empty calories that come from a science fiction summer blockbuster. Speaking of the films effects, they are not the center piece of the film, but I do admire the effort put forth to use old school effects, like miniatures. This film has an interesting blend of minimal use of CGI and lots of miniatures, but you’d never know it because they are so well achieved.
I cannot go on writing this review without mentioning the great work that Sam Rockwell does in it. The whole film rests on his shoulders, and I have to say that he did an amazing job considering the different tasks that this particular role required of him. Just goes to show that Rockwell’s career should only go up from here on in. Same goes for director Duncan Jones who by the way is the son of one of the greatest glam rock stars to ever walk the face of the earth. A rocker who is familiar with space oddities and spiders from Mars. Mr. David Bowie himself.
Duncan: "Hey dad, will you fund my first film?" David Bowie: "If you make it trippy enough I will!"
So that’s my take on Moon. If you’re in the mood for some intelligent sci-fi, Moon will have you blasting off into the philosophical stratosphere.
Rating: 4 out of 5