Monday, August 03, 2009

"Moon": This is not a review

But it is a recommendation. "Moon" is a small independent film directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, that's still only playing in a handful of theaters across the country. Despite that, it's picked up a fair amount of positive buzz - not so much among mainstream critics (who have mostly given it mildly positive but not ecstatic reviews) as online circles of film buffs and sci-fi aficionados.

I haven't decided whether to write a full review, because it's the kind of movie I want to discuss in a way that would reveal far too much. So for now here's the thumbnail version.

Set in the not-too-distant future, "Moon" is about a dude named Sam (played by a dude named Sam - a brilliantly cast Sam Rockwell) who's finishing up a three-year contract running a one-man energy-harvesting operation on the dark side of the moon. (No Pink Floyd jokes here.) It's just him and a highly artificially intelligent computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), and the three years of virtual solitude - apart from limited communication with the company and his family on earth - have clearly taken their toll. He starts to have hallucinations. He gets into an accident. Then things really get weird when he encounters a guy who looks and talks just like him and claims to be him.

The film obviously owes much to Kubrick's "2001" and both versions of "Solaris," and pays subtler homage to various other sci-fi classics. It owes an even greater debt to at least one other famous movie that I can't name without potentially giving the whole game away. My main problem with "Moon" is that the ideas it explores have all been much more thoroughly and deeply mined by other films, and it doesn't really bring anything new to them. That said, it's well executed as far as it goes, has some clever touches, achieves impressive visual effects on a shoestring budget (think miniatures, à la original Star Wars), and is definitely primed to provoke both thought and discussion afterwards. It also features a remarkable double-lead performance by Rockwell that should get more attention than it's currently receiving.

The movie's low profile reminds me a little of that of "Gattaca" and "Strange Days," underrated sci-fi movies that didn't make a big splash either critically or commercially, but ended up picking up a small core - not quite a cult - of dedicated fans (and no, I don't just mean me). Only time will tell if "Moon" goes the same way. But it's certainly well set up for that path.



Blogger ToastyKen said...

I was biased to like this movie because they actually used an idea I had 5 years ago, of using emoticons for a robot! Behold:


Okay I guess mine is technically a cybernetic daisy and not a robot...

7:36 AM  
Blogger ToastyKen said...

Also trying not to be too spoilerish... I liked its take on its most obvious parallel to 2001.

7:38 AM  

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