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Posted by Cantankerous Panda on March 13, 2010

MOON (2009)

This is an interesting, odd little film. It has hints of Castaway mixed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and a dash of Solaris (let’s think the book instead of the movie for that one), but don’t let that combination scare you. It’s far more interesting and enjoyable to watch than Castaway (yes, I unfortunately watched that monstrosity for a psychology class) and easier to comprehend than 2001. If you’re a big fan of Sam Rockwell’s, then this is definitely the movie for you. If you like watching basically one actor on screen for extended periods of time, going through psychological trauma of sorts, then this is also the movie for you. I’ll try to keep this one as spoiler-free as possible. If anyone sees this film (or has seen it) and wishes to discuss the details at all, then we can head down to the comments section and hope that everyone else reading this review will heed this warning: DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM AND DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED! Ah, that’s better. Now allow me to talk about the film as enigmatically as I possibly can.

The basic plot of the movie is that there’s a man, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), on the moon. Alone. He is taking part in a three year mission, and we join him with two weeks left to go. He’s excited to return home to his wife and daughter– he gets to see them every so often via video link. His only real source of “interaction” is GERTY, the ship’s computer (a la HAL) voiced by Kevin Spacey. I have to admit, hearing Kevin Spacey try to make his voice sound like it’s a programmed response just made me laugh. It just so sounds like Kevin Spacey that I kinda can’t get past it. I love Kevin Spacey, too. Anyway, back to the plot. With two weeks to go, Sam has to go out to check on something and crashes his rover. He wakes up in the medical wing of his ship, decides to go back out to retrieve the rover, and finds a big surprise along the way. He realizes he is not alone, and the discovery sends him through a spiral of questions regarding his own sanity and the life he thought he knew.

Cryptic, eh? It’s not as crazy as you might think. Again, I don’t want to get all spoilery, but the concept is rather interesting. This is, of course, a sci-fi film, but it’s more than the typical fare. It’s really a movie that is driven by these underlying ideas and possibilities for us to ponder rather than alien life and mad scientist experiments gone awry. Sam Rockwell has never been a favourite of mine, but he absolutely shines in this performance. Evey step of the way, you are drawn into the whirlwind of emotions that he is going through; the confusion, the denial, the anguish, the anger, and even the acceptance. You are left considering how you would react if faced with this scenario– what would that knowledge do to you? It’s a devastating thought, and it certainly brings forth some interesting dialogue regarding certain scientific advances that are currently relevant (and have been for the past few years). Sorry to be vague, but, as I keep saying, I don’t want to give too much away.

My criticisms of the film stem from some of the “twists” that I felt were either unnecessary or entirely too obvious to be treated as a big reveal. Most of the major plot points that occurred after the initial plot set-up were easily predictable and I was left annoyed that I could figure out these big “shocker” moments. That’s not to say that I’m some sort of film genius who can predict so many things during movies just because I am that good– I honestly think it was all too plainly laid out for the audience. Some of these moments were meant to come with an emotional punch of sorts, and just having it act as a confirmation of a prediction doesn’t result in the same kind of reaction from the audience. Those moments were a little more hollow for me.

The overall concept of the film also left me feeling a bit uneasy, which I think is intentional. It’s horrific in many ways, but also interesting and curious to watch how such a scenario might play out. You can argue both sides of the situation and the logic behind being for it or against it with a certain amount of ease on both parts, but in the end the film ultimately appeals to your sense of humanity and empathy. What does it mean to be human? What makes us human, by definition? Is there a way for a person to be both human and, yet, less than? It’s an issue that such films like Blade Runner have addressed in various ways, but I think that Moon is something rather special (not to downplay the awesomeness of Blade Runner). What strikes me about Moon is its lack of reliance on special effects and “out there” science fiction. Perhaps what makes it hit so close to home is that, while it does take place at some indeterminate point in the future, it’s steeped in such plausible science that it makes the story utterly more compelling, to me. You can actually imagine conversations being had about this sort of scenario occurring in the near future.While there have been other films that have addressed something similar, the scenario is usually handled in a ham-handed, cheesy, Michael Bay sort of way which inevitably removes all of the emotional impact of the situation and sucks out anything cerebral to make way for over-the-top action sequences with shiny vehicles (a different kind of emotional appeal, one might say).

I want to take this moment to recognize the writers, Duncan Jones (original story– and director of the film) and Nathan Parker (screenplay) for handling science fiction in such a subtle and introspective manner. It’s not something that happens often in this genre, and it’s refreshing when it’s done well. I also felt that Jones handled the material quite well with his direction, emphasizing the desolation not only with scenes on the moon’s surface but with various shots of Sam as he lives his daily life, and then taking us on the crazy ride that Sam soon finds himself on.

Do I recommend this film? Yes, for true fans of sci-fi who can appreciate a more thoughtful movie of this genre in lieu of in-your-face craziness and action sequences. If you haven’t caught on by this point–and I’m a bit afraid for you if that’s the case–this film isn’t one that I would consider a “typical” sci-fi film. It’s a film that uses science fiction to make you question various issues about yourself and humanity as a whole. A lot of sci-fi and horror film have similar subtexts–many use “the other” as a symbol for various human aspects found in reality. But what sells me more on Moon, at least in concept, is that those questions aren’t hidden behind many layers of special effects, costumes, and far-fetched scenarios. It’s all very tangible and realistic, and it doesn’t require a big stretch of the imagination to believe such a scenario could someday occur. And perhaps that’s what makes films of this nature the most frightening of all.


8 Responses to “Moon”

  1. That girl that you know said

    I wasn’t sure how I felt about this movie immediately after watching, but having mulled it over, I like it now. I think it was well-done and interesting. Despite some of the predictability, I thought it was an overall effective and emotionally resonant film.

  2. That girl that you know said

    Umm…. thank you?

  3. Harry Limon said

    The simple corporate slogan “Lunar Industries remains the number one provider of clean energy worldwide due to the hard work of people like you” becomes incredibly creepy in retrospect.

    And how about the haunting minimalist score from Clint Mansell (who also composed the score for Requiem for a Dream)?

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Oh true! I didn’t really remember the score, but I do remember it fitting well. Silly me– I really need to pay more attention to such things in these types of films especially.

      I agree with you about the slogan, though. I didn’t recall that but it’s hilariously creepy now that I see it.

  4. Roll said

    your review was spot on, very good sci fi movie. quite creepy at times, but at other times it made me laugh hard.
    (especially the part where his alarm clock wakes him up to ” i am the one and only”)
    as said the movie’s fairly predictable. but its filmed very well.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Yeah it has some comic relief in it, for sure, but it’s also creepy and melancholy. I’m glad that you enjoyed it, though! As a different kind of sci-fi, it may not suit everyone’s taste, but I think it’s still quite provocative :).

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. […] attempts at duplicating Stark’s Iron Man suit. Enter Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, seen in Moon, Galaxy Quest, and many others), the clearly insecure and sleazy […]

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