I recently watched a movie called, Moon, which is probably the finest example of philoscifi I have seen since Gattaca and The Matrix. Considering that Gattaca came out in 1997 and The Matrix came out in 1999, that’s saying something. The more I read about Moon, the more impressed I became. Impressed enough to actually write something about it in a timely fashion!
Moon is a rather simple story. Astronaut Sam Bell is nearing the end of a 3-year stint on the far side of the moon. He is the only human on base; his only companion is a computer/robot named GERTY. He can only communicate with Earth via recorded messages because the live satellite link is down. The prolonged isolation seems to be playing tricks on his mind. He begins to see and hear things. It’s so distracting that he gets into an accident outside. He awakens at the base, but something isn’t quite right…
One of the harvesters is busted, and Sam wants to go fix it. GERTY forbids it. Through some trickery, Sam finally convinces GERTY to let him go outside. He arrives at the harvester to find a crashed rover with somebody inside. He is still alive. Sam rushes the person back to the base infirmary. The person is Sam Bell.
To reveal the “secret” so early in the movie might seem like a big mistake, but this isn’t a mystery/thrilller. This is a thinking movie. It’s about the consequences that follow, not the revelation itself. You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to find out what happens!
Things I liked (contains SPOILERS)
At first, I had mixed feeling about Moon, but both its ideas and the director’s vision really grew on me.
Clones with limited lifespans
Not a new idea but one that has always struck a chord with me (see Blade Runner). It might be cost effective for the corporation, but is it ethical to treat clones like machines to be used and discarded? Are they not human, just like us?
What do you do when you realize that everything is a lie?
Everyone reactions differently. The healthy Sam [Clone #6] is a strong individual and seems to take everything in stride. No. 5 doesn’t take it so well and begins to fall about. This seems natural considering he has lived the lie for 3 years while No. 6 has only recently been awakened.
A robot that is more human than the humans
GERTY helps the Sams through their ordeal. It is sad to see this compassion being erased when he is rebooted at the end. We normally think of robots as rational and unfeeling. GERTY breaks that stereotype.
The bond between twins/clones
Many people believe that twins share a special bond. You often hear of one “sensing” things about the other, even in cases when they have been separated at birth. This hasn’t been scientifically proven, but the director makes use of this idea in Moon. Towards the end of his lifespan, No. 5 begins to “hallucinate.” What he is really seeing is glimpses of the real Sam Bell’s life on Earth.
Perhaps Moon‘s greatest achievement is capturing this feeling so well. Far away from loved ones. Alone for 3 years. Waiting. Hoping. Discovering your life has been a lie. Dying. All you want to do is go “home.” Yet home never seemed so far away…
The ending clearly leaves room for a sequel, which presumably will be about the ramifications of Sam #6’s arrival on Earth. The director envisions it as a “spiritual successor to Blade Runner.” This sounds interesting, and I hope it gets made.
Moon impressed me on many levels. Everything was stylishly understated. The effects served a storytelling purpose rather than simply being window dressing. It had great production values considering its relatively low indie budget. The story, though simple and predictable, was haunting. Sam Rockwell did an admirable playing two very different personalities. The director, Duncan Jones, clearly drew upon his philosophy background and love of classic SF movies in creating Moon–his first feature film, believe it or not. You don’t see this kind of philoscifi much anymore. It’s nice to know that it still exists.