Posted by Florian Wardell | 4 comments
Movie of the month: Moon
I must admit I’ve been continuously disappointed by recent sci-fi movies. They seem increasingly dull and unoriginal. The last Star Wars episodes weren’t as good as the first ones. Red Planet and Mission to Mars had good beginnings, but lousy endings. You could even look further back in time. Remember Armageddon, and it’s ridiculous twin shuttle launch with spacecrafts behaving like aircrafts although they’re in the vacuum of space? Then there’s the whole other kind of sci-fi, the one that has absolutely nothing to do with even remotely possible reality, like the Alien series, War of the Worlds, Knowing, Transformers etc… I find these funny and entertaining as they don’t even pretend to have any ties with real physics, but they leave me craving for more innovative, original and better movies. I deeply love Kubrick’s 2001 A space odyssey, its magnificent sequences and aesthetics. I enjoyed Dune, not only because of Sting’s appearance but because the story was original and felt new, even though the movie is decades old.
I remember being addicted to Apollo 13 at age 9. This is the movie I’ve probably seen the most in my life, I can recite whole sequences about fuel cells and free return trajectories by heart, and I deeply hope one gifted director will do a similar movie about the Space Shuttle (don’t mention Space Cowboys please) or another Apollo mission.
Anyway, enough rambling on about how bad recent sci-fi movies are. Today, I would like to write about an excellent movie that came out recently, “Moon”, directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, and starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. The movie is a British production and was released in July 2009.
The basic plot is as follows: In a near future (let’s say 2040-2050), the global energy crisis is solved by Lunar Industries, a company mining the moon and harvesting Helium3. Sam Bell is an employee of Lunar Industries on a 3 year contract on the hidden side of the moon. Due to a supposedly damaged satellite, any direct radio communication with earth is impossible, and Sam has to use a downlink via a satellite orbiting Jupiter, creating a very long delay. Sam is alone and isolated, and his only company is a robot called GERTY (voice by Kevin Spacey). With such little human contact and all of it indirect, he feels that three years is far too long to be so isolated; he knows he is beginning to hallucinate as the end of his contract nears. With two weeks to go, he gets into an accident at one of the mechanical harvesters and is rendered unconscious. Injured, he awakens back at the station in the infirmary, he assumes assisted by GERTY. GERTY tells him that a rescue team named Eliza will come to the station to clean up the aftermath of the accident. After his recuperation, he takes an unauthorized trip back to the broken harvester, where he makes an unexpected discovery. Because of his find, he begins to doubt his sanity, then his true identity, then the company and GERTY’s willingness to do what is best for him. Because of his resulting beliefs, his sole mission becomes to find a way to get back to Earth on his own.
I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in the following lines, but it would be best if you watched the movie before reading on, as writing about it with out revealing any details about the outcome of the plot is difficult. First of all I would like to remind everyone that this movie has been created with a ridiculously low budget of about 5 million $. A regular feature film in Hollywood gets about 10 times as much. Despite a low budget, the visuals are breathtaking: The interior, the CGI of the moon’s surface and base, the views of the satellite orbiting the moon are all beautiful. The movie isn’t unworthy of comparison to 2001: Kubrick fans will immediately appreciate Duncan Jone’s use of classical music, and recognize the reference to HAL. GERTY is a beautifully rendered character in the movie and really helps creating suspense and tension in the film. However, you will see that his role is quite different at the end, and I guarantee that he will make you have an “awww” moment as the plot develops.
As interesting as GERTY is, the true centerpiece of the movie is Sam Rockwell himself. His performance is a tour de force, one of the best I’ve seen so far. He truly is in Sean Penn’s league (Dead Man Walking), just to name an example. His ability to have a dialogue with an actor that is not there (Sam1 is talking to Sam2, who is also played by Rockwell as well and therefore not present at the first take of a scene) is simply amazing. The fact that there actually is only one actor on the screen is almost unbelievable, and I’d be ready to accept any twin theory. His despair, disbelief as he discovers who he truly is, his degrading physical condition is beautifuly portrayed and brought onto the screen.
The scenario is well constructed, and at no time have I felt bored whatsoever. I do have a few remarks though. One of the things I didn’t like were the interfaces on the various screens. Seriously, if technology is sufficiently advanced to allow a permanent base on the moon, why use computers that beep at every letter they display? And why do they make spelling mistakes (you can see satTelite on one of the screens)? Also, the repetitive scenes with Sam’s hypothetical wife are unnecessary: Too scarce to please any female members in the audience, too frequent to not disturb a geek’s enjoyment of the movie.
At last but not least, I do not like the fact that the moon’s 17% gravity (relative to Earth) isn’t replicated inside the base. Sure, they may have a technology allowing a 1G gravity to be artificially produced, but please mention it! On the other hand, the effects of the low gravity outside of the base are beautifully rendered, particularly in the particles flying out of the harvesters.
To conclude I would recommend this movie to almost anyone. The concepts tackled by Moon are wide ranging: Cloning, corporation policies, sustainable life on another celestial body, space travel, human interaction with artificial intelligence, just to name a few. The movie is poetic, scary, spectacular, suspenseful and smart all at the same time. And I can guarantee that you will hit the rewind button once you’ve reached the end, just to check on some details that you apparently missed.
Be sure to catch it in a cinema (although this might be too late and quite difficult, as it was only screened in independent theaters) or watch it in HD. The bluray is already out, and worth every cent.
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