Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moon (and no... not the New one)

"There is more He-3 energy on the Moon than we have ever had in the form of fossil fuels on Earth. All we have to do is to go there and get it." - Wilson Greatbatch

Generally, I'm not as big a sci-fi fan as I am horror. Though the fact that The X-Files remains one of my all-time favorites should be an indicator that I do hold some affection for the sub-genre. I loved Alien and The Thing, but as a whole, sci-fi films aren't something I gravitate towards. However, I'd heard so much about Sam Rockwell's performance in Moon that I had to check it out. And I'm ever so glad I did.

Moon (2009) is a film written and directed by Duncan Jones, who shared on the DVD extras that Moon was specifically created for Sam Rockwell in mind. It carries a large amount of influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as shades of a few other sci-fi classics.
And the very sparse cast headlined by Rockwell prove that sometimes, less is more.

As Moon begins, Sam Bell is an employee at the end of a three year contract for Lunar Industries in which he is the sole astronaut, stationed on the moon to extract helium-3 from the moon to be used as energy for Earth. When Sam began his contract, his wife Tess was pregnant with their daughter Eve, whom he has yet to meet in person. Sam and Tess are able to talk via recorded transmissions, but not often enough and Sam is obviously aching to get back home.

Not completely alone, Sam's only "friend" is an AI computer named GERTY (think Hal here, but not as megalomanic). Voiced by the perfectly monotonous Kevin Spacey, GERTY is represented by a yellow smiley face on his computer screen that changes expressions according to his 'mood'. Confusion, sadness, surprise and happiness are revolving throughout the course of the film.

While out on a routine check of the harvester outside the station, Sam thinks he sees someone standing on the moon's surface. It throws him for a mental loop and he ends up crashing the lunar rover into the harvester.

When he awakens, he is back in the station's infirmary and is being tended to by GERTY (as much as a robot computer is able), who tells him he was injured in an accident. Soon after this, Sam overhears a conversation meant to be private between GERTY and the powers-that-be at Lunar Industries and finds out for some reason he is no longer allowed outside the lunar station.

Confused and interest piqued, Sam purposely damages a part of the station to force GERTY to allow him outside to check on it. Once in the rover, he skirts off to the place of his previous accident and surprisingly finds the other wrecked rover with someone inside, seriously injured. It is here where Sam discovers, quite shockingly, that the rover's injured party is almost certainly a clone of himself.

Now here's where it gets tricky. Sam takes the other Sam back to the infirmary, and as he recuperates, the two of them attempt to figure out the situation at hand. The original Sam's health starts to deteriorate, as well as his mental staus. This causes them both to determine that the original Sam was never supposed to be found in the wrecked rover - and that new Sam is apparently his replacement. With a bit of help from GERTY (who continually stresses he is "there to help you, Sam") they probe into the mystery of the cloning and whether or not either one of them is even going to make it out alive.

Communications from Lunar Industries HQ keep telling Sam (though they still believe old Sam to be gone and replaced by new Sam) that someone is coming to pick him up. Upon further investigation, the two Sams find video evidence of previous Sams working at the station, and of course this makes them wonder how long this has been going on. They find all communications to earth have been sabatoged and all this time every transmission from Tess has been previously recorded and on playback.

At one point, sickly (old) Sam takes a portable communications device outside the station and is able to contact Earth and calls up his home, intending to talk to Tess. When his daughter Eve answers the video call and it is evident she is in her late teens, Sam is crushed to learn Tess died several years ago and that the original Sam is home on Earth.
Old Sam determines this was the figure he'd seen in his hallucinations.

While we as viewers are starting to surmise that the infamous 'three year contract' is really the time-line for the clone's existence, it is so disheartening to wander this path with the two Sams. It's like being punched in the gut when you realize they were never intended to go home at all.

And it's obvious the two Sams are in danger of both being exterminated once the supposed rescue team finds out they both exist at the same time. So they set a plan in motion to attempt to save at least one of their lives and reveal the crime that has been committed against them.

Moon is one mind-fuck of a film, to be sure. At times it was more than just a bit confusing, but once you get a hold of the plotline and fish out who is who - you'll do fine. The stark whiteness of the lunar station where Sam works and lives does so much to remind one of 2001: A Space Odyssey and other movies set in space. The contrast to the darkness of space just adds an extra layer of ominous dread, where you know that even though it's so damn sterile, bad things are gonna happen. Reminded me a bit of Alien, as well. Though the antagonist here isn't a foreign alien she-bitch, but the resolute - yet horrifying - human race. Nothing beats our selfish, uncaring nature.

I simply cannot say enough about Sam Rockwell in this, I really can't. His acting was near perfection. I wasn't a huge fan of his before (and no, I don't know why) but now? Hell yeah.Makes me want to see everything he's done. He's gathered quite a few acting awards and nominations over the years, and it's really no wonder that his part in Moon was also revered. The film itself won the 2009 Best British Independent Film Award, among other accolades.

While some might find Moon extremely slow-paced (and this would be true, I fell asleep the first time I tried watching it too late at night), it is well worth the time. I'd have to recommend it to all sci-fi fans, and tell horror fans to really consider giving it a watch. Open up your tightly closed fist locked in straight-up horror and expand your horizons. Moon is the perfect film to try it.

*Trivia tidbit: Director Duane Jones is the son of David Bowie. Ground control to Major Tom anyone? Weird.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


B-Sol said...

Possibly my favorite genre movie of 2009--woefully under-recognized. I really hoped to see Rockwell get an Oscar nomination. Not to be...

A wonderful return to intelligent, thought-provoking sci-fi, though. Arthur C. Clarke would've been proud!

James said...

I'm so glad you liked this Chris - it was one of my favourite films from last year. Does what all good sci-fi should do - be intelligent, provocative, moving, imaginative and audacious. Moon was all of these things and so much more. The epic ideas filtered through the intimate, low-fi story - and that score! And Sam Rockwell's performance! I want to watch Moon again - right now!

Happy St Patrick's day. :o)

Will Errickson said...

Yes, more people need to see this! A guy I know saw it in the theater last year & wouldn't stop raving about it, so I finally Netflixed it. I'm not a big SF movie fan either (altho' I do like some SF novels) but MOON really was cool.

C.L. Hadden said...

Brian: Oh yes, Rockwell certainly deserved an Oscar nod. Damn Academy anyway!

James: I agree with all your 'Moon' adjectives wholeheartedly:)

*And I hope your serial killer St. Patty's was a good one nonetheless;o)

Will: I seriously don't think this film got enough advertisement and endorsements, at least not here in the states. Like you said, even those of us not into sci-fi as heavily appreciated it - it was awesome!

Hope said...

I'm not usually a hardcore sci-fi fan either but I loved Moon. They really couldn't have picked a better person to voice Gerty than Kevin Spacey. Love it.