Review: Moon

So the LPSC conference threw me off my stride, and I forgot that the movie Moon was being screened in Dallas at the AFI film festival until Chris, one of my fellow NSS of North Texas chapter members, sent out a reminder that there was going to be a second showing last night. The tickets were sold out, but there was something called a rush line where I could wait to see if there would be any empty seats. Arriving about an hour before the show I was about number 30 in the line. This was not looking good. The line wouldn’t open until five minutes of eight after everyone else was seated. By quarter of eight there were about 50 people and some young lady came around with a camera to record us losers who hadn’t gotten tickets. The AFI coordinator came down to announce that there was a 99.9% chance that no one would get in…but we do have these other fine movies with plenty of room that are starting right now. Now I’m down to about number twenty. Folks behind me start peeling off, but hardly anyone in front.

Quarter after eight and I’m down to about fifteenth in line. The coordinator pops back down to announce that they are still seating folks with AFI passes and it looks like a full house…but these other fine movies are just starting, so if you can hurry you can see them. More of the cineastes peel off. Tenth…seventh…fourth. The trio in front of me is talking it over. I tell the guy I am here until the bitter end because the only reason I am there is to see Moon. Finally, it’s down to me and the young lady behind me. Are we together? Um…no, but we can be. He announces that there is one single seat left. Every fiber of my being is screaming that it is my duty as a gentleman to allow the lady to see the film. I… She allows that I was before her in line. I thank her profusely and bolt for the escalator. I got the last seat on the far left of the front row. Thank you again, Miss, if you’re reading this.

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Continuing the recent spate of Moon-related movies, director Duncan Jones brings us the philosophical musings of Moon, starring Sam Rockwell as Helium-3 miner Sam Bell stationed on the far side of the Moon at Sarang Station. He’s nearing the end of his three-year contract, and good thing too, as he’s starting to get a little loopy from the isolation and lack of human companionship.

The work is not too bad. The mining machines, reminiscent of the spice harvesters from Dune, are largely automated, and Sam only needs to go out to visit them every now and then to collect the full canisters of He-3. On one such trip he starts seeing things, a strange dark-haired girl near the harvester, and the distraction leads to an accident.

Sam awakens in the infirmary, and that’s where things start getting convoluted. The plot is fairly complicated, and I don’t want to give too much away, but it has been revealed that one of the twists is the fact that Sam has to deal with a clone. There are plenty of plot twists and turns after that to keep you guessing as to just what exactly is going on, but slowly Sam puts the pieces together and the truth is rather ugly.

The bloodline of this movie spans the science fiction genre, and it pays homage to and evokes more films than I can name. The opening of the movie is an advertisement for the corporate operator of the Moon facilities, Lunar Industries. The structure of it gave me a wicked flashback to GaiaSelene: Saving the Earth by Colonizing the Moon. I don’t know if it was intentional, but just like the documentary, the ad’s first half talks about the energy issues we face here on Earth, and then the second half on how the resources of our Moon can address those issues, with the corporation claiming to supply 75% of Earth’s power from their Lunar Helium-3 operations.

Moving into the film, the design of the sets strongly reminded me of sci-fi classics like Space: 1999, Outland, and 2001: A Space Odyssey (the Director also mentions Silent Running and Alien in his Space Center Houston Q&A). There was a strongly industrial and corporate feel to the scenery that seemed very appropriate. When Sam was taking the rover out to the crawlers I was remembering scenes from Star Cops. There was one interior scene that might well have been lifted directly from Space: 1999, the similarities were so striking.

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The main plot delves deeply into the director’s interest in philosophy, in this case as applied to clones. Here the film pays homage to films from Blade Runner to, dare I say it, Metropolis. There’s a fascinating sci-fi twist to it that I don’t think I can discuss, as the gentleman speaking before the movie said there’s a twist that we’re not supposed to disclose, and I honestly am not sure which particular twist he was talking about, but that they would hunt down and find anyone who did so.

There’s comedy hearkening back to Dark Star. There’s disquieting horror, and more than once you’re just like, whoa, dude, that’s inhuman. But oh so terribly corporate.

I should mention GERTY, since it’s voiced by Kevin Spacey and acted via emoticons. It’s Sam’s robotic assistant, traversing the base by means of tracks in the ceiling. This is one of the areas where they used CGI, and it’s quite discretely done (at least from the perspective of the far left seat of the front row). Mostly, though, the equipment was real life heavy-duty industrial type stuff.

I rather enjoyed it, and will certainly see it again when it comes to theatres this summer to delve a bit more into the philosophical side of it. The science was fairly high-fidelity, and it’s obvious that film-makers are starting to learn about the benefits of using the silence of vacuum space to their advantage. Still, a hatch does not make a clanging sound in a vacuum, and there are a few other inconsistencies as well. You have to admit that it is tough to replicate things falling in 1/6th gravity in terrestrial movie studios. Maybe they should rent out the Zero-G plane like the Mythbuster guys did.

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As good as Moon is, it’s not quite a Full Moon (subject to revision when I can see it from a decent perspective). I’m going to go with a strong waxing three-quarter Moon rating for this fine film.

Some Moon-related links:

Atomic Popcorn Review
New Scientist Review
Wired Review
rogerebert.com Review
MSNBC Review
USA Today Review
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Review
San Francisco Chronicle Review
Christian Science Monitor Review
Rope of Silicon Review
CraveOnline.com Review
Entertainment Weekly Review
Film Journal International Review
Hollywood & Fine Review
twitch Review
FirstShowing.net Review
FilmSchoolRejects Review
Cinematical Review
We Are Movie Geeks Review
Salon Interview
Pegasus News Interview
Quiet Earth Interview
Spoutblog Interview
Moon Trailer blogspot
IMDB site

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2 thoughts on “Review: Moon

  1. Is there a firm date as to when this film is coming out? I would love to see this movie also, and thanks for doing a great review!

  2. To a person who doesn’t know 2001 Space Odyssey or hasn’t read Stanislaw Lem or Phillip Dick, this all may sound pretty innovative and quite deep. One might even start asking herself question about identity and those sort of things. To me however, it was the same old stuff presented again and again, with no added value whatsoever.

    My review here: “Moon”: a Big Disappointment

  3. facebook community

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