This past weekend I went to the movies, and it was for a good cause. I went to see Moon, which is classical science fiction that generally doesn’t get made these days. The trailer raised enough questions to peak my interest (though I don’t suggest you watch the trailer if you plan to see the film), and what with the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, I thought what the hell.
Moon is clearly steeped in some of the great sci-fi films of the past, from its calm computer a.i. companion GERTY who will remind you of the HAL 9000, to the stark moon base setting that could easily pass for the interior of Alien’s Nostromo. Aesthetic similarities aside, Moon brings much food for thought to the genre, exploring different ideas that haven’t been done as well, at least not in recent memory, and all on a surprisingly skimp budget of only $5 million.
Without getting spoilery, the story orbits Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the lone supervisor of a mining operation for Lunar Industries that extracts helium, which is then sent back home to power the Earth. He’s been on the job for 3 years and his only company is GERTY, a robotic pal played dryly by Kevin Spacey. Naturally, the isolation and boredom are starting to get to Sam, and just when he’s about to go home he becomes haunted by hallucinations. Thankfully the story is not a simple rehash of the recently remade Solaris, and presents us with new ideas that take us far afield of that film. Suffice to say that there is plenty here to think about both during and after the film.
GERTY even manages to step out from HAL’s shadow with his cute if not conspicuous emoticon face which, like emoticons on the web, give you the uneasy feeling that you can’t always trust the expression he shows. He’s also got a physical body and arms with which to interact with Sam, which are pretty convincing (even though they are computer generated). Actually, all of the effects work in the film is excellent, despite its aforementioned budget, probably because the director has wisely decided to use tried and true techniques, such as miniatures, to their advantage whenever possible. The Moon itself and the mining equipment look fantastic, but they’re only there to serve the story.
All in all I thought Moon was an excellent film, and while it may not reach the intellectual heights it was aiming for, at least it tries, and is damn enthralling in the process. Which is more than I can say for most sci-fi movies these days.
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