Aug 30, 2010

[Movies] Moon (2009)

Moon (2009)As much as a lot of science fiction movies seem like they're based on older concepts that have already been done before, it's nice we still get surprised. That's one of the great things about science fiction - it's based on our ability to imagine things greater than what we have now and explore the furthest reaches of creativity and forward thinking.

And we've reached an interesting point in our cultural development when some of our previous science fiction predictions have already started to come to pass. The list of such realized inventions is already pretty significant including mobile phones, touch screen computers and the like. And despite how a lot of these previous ideas are already science fact, storytellers of all sorts are continuing to define new areas for the future to emulate, whether they intend to or not.

This particular movie was definitely a refreshing surprise in a time when the Hollywood Remake has begun to dominate the cineplexes with their substandard programming. So despite the seeming death of creativity and originality elsewhere, you get real gems like this movie. Oh yay.

Sam Rockwell and Duncan Jones at the 2009 Trib...Image via WikipediaMoon is a 2009 British science fiction movie by first-time director Duncan Jones. While there are a few other incidental characters, the movie really only has two principal players.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is an employee of Lunar Industries, a company licensed to harvest Helium-3 on the moon. It's a one man operation that relies a lot of automation of the harvesters and the artificial companionship of GERTY (Kevin Spacey as voice), the base's robotic overseer. Sam spends his days making sure the harvesting process continues without issue while counting the days until the end of his contract. Once over, he'll be able to return to Earth in order to be reunited with his wife Tess (Dominique McElligot). He has limited contact with Earth given the faulty communication satellite in orbit that Lunar Industries never seems to get around to fixing.

Things shift when he gets into an accident while retrieving the day's Helium-3 harvest. He had been experiencing brief hallucinations of other people with him in the base in the days leading up to the accident. It happened again while he was out on the lunar surface and after seeing what appeared to be a man outside, he crashes his rover causing a pressure leak. He wakes up in the station's infirmary feeling disoriented and GERTY making him go through a variety of tests to ensure he's safe and well. But all is not quite as it seems as Sam realizes that GERTY is trying to keep him in the base at all times.

This movie was just sheer brilliance from start to finish and I have to admit that much of the credit has to go to Sam Rockwell for carrying the story very well. For the most part, the movie is just about him and you can truly believe that his routine does allow him to survive the rigors of isolation all this time. But yes, it does help to have a Kevin Spacey computer voice with annoying emoticons in an attempt to convey some semblance of feelings. Yes, this is the new way to depict HAL without being overly sinister.

It's hard to believe that the movie only had a budget of $5 million given how well put-together the whole thing came out to be in the end. Quite frankly, this definitely had the look and feel of much grander older science fiction movies without the unnecessary price tag attached to it - a skill that few directors are able to exercise as much in a 3D-obsessed Hollywood. And this minimalist approach did not take away from the movie in any way - in fact I feel it gained a greater sense of authenticity because of it. GERTY was an elegant little robotic rig that follows Sam around the station. And the rovers and harvesters looked stunning, a reminder to us all that it's hard to replace the elegance of using miniatures and models instead of excessive CGI.

At the core of things, the movie had a strong plot driving it and one that belongs amongst the best science fiction movies out there. It was a highly effective use of the possibilities of technology, human nature and the scary creativity and problem-solving methods of man. It's a story that forces one to explore ones own life to be certain of every last moment and a reminder of what it means to be human.

Moon is definitely one of the best science fiction movies that have come out in recent history. It gets the full 5 emoticon markers out of a possible 5.
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