After an E.C. Myers‘ recommendation, I went to see Moon last night with my girlfriend. We were warned by the ticket seller to get to the theater early because the director, Duncan Jones (supposedly David Bowie’s son, according to one source) would be there to introduce the film and answer questions afterward. We fattened up beforehand at Katz’s Delicatessen, where I had a pastrami sandwich that could have felled a buffalo. Then we crept into the subterranean cinema of the Landmark Sunshine theater.
Moon begins with a commercial for “green” energy. A compound called Helium-3 has solved all the world’s energy problems. The only caveat, it’s on the dark side of the moon. Enter Sam Bell, a lonesome astronaut who minds the Lunar Industries mining facility all by himself. Well, not entirely. He’s accompanied by the boxy robot, Guerty, whose prime directive is to make sure Sam is safe and sane at all costs. The facility mostly runs itself. In this future, robots pretty much tend to everything, so Sam is there merely to fix things when they break, and to send off an occasional sample of He3 back to Earth in a launch tube reminiscent of submarine torpedoes. Sam’s three year stint is almost up, and he wants nothing more than to go home to see his wife and toddler girl. But the direct satellite link is down, and so Sam must communicate with Earth via a series of intermediary links. The sense of isolation is palpable, especially when Sam’s usual pastimes, building a model, tending to his plants, watching old televisions shows, fail to salve his loneliness. Things begin to get creepy when he starts seeing things: things that most certainly shouldn’t be there.
I won’t spoil the film by giving too much more away. Let’s just say that the film is entirely science fictional. There’s no supernaturalism here. Moon takes a lot from earlier films, notably Outland, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey and yes Blade Runner. But it uses their themes in a unique way. Several times I was pleasantly surprised by the subversion of standard science fictional tropes. Our expectations are played with. The end result is a positive riff on humanity.
As director Duncan Jones said afterward in a short Q&A, science fiction makes the humanity stand out in stark contrast with its surroundings. This is a film, first and foremost, about characters, which in my humble opinion, is what makes the best science fiction. Duncan said, closing the Q&A, “This may be somewhat cheeky of me, but if you all can tell your friends about this film. We had near-zero advertizing budget and this thing will succeed or fail because of you.” I for one would like to see more science fiction films like these. Do yourself a favor and go out and see Moon at your earliest opportunity.