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The Best of 2009: 'Moon'



It is very rare these days to see a science-fiction film that reminds us of the old speculative concepts that gave birth to the genre in the first place. Audiences have grown accustom to space opera and the fantasy-based "Hero's Journeys" spawned from the Star Wars series, so a film like, Moon, is a four leaf clover among a lot of the three leaf kind. By extension, it is also pleasant to see a film that is not afraid to go above and beyond in its exploration of its themes. Like some of the best original Star Trek episodes, Moon knows what it wants to say and delves deep into the happily comedic as well as the ironic frightening aspects of its questions.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an average guy of an astronaut who is about to complete his 3-year stint on a moonbase that mines for a special material found on the lunar surface. His only companion is GERTY, a computer that only has emoticons for a face. Put those cartoon expressions onto Kevin Spacey's voice and you get a very cute machine that is a nice follow-up to HAL 9000 (from 2001: A Space Odyssey), minus the crazy errors. However, there seems to be someone else on the moon. It is not alien, but it might as well be alien to Sam. Without divulging too much more, I was satisfied that director Duncan Jones' film might be one of the first, really successful attempts at exploring this particular alienating theme.

To make it all work for an apparently low-budget feature, it was a stroke of great luck that Jones' team was able to score opportunities to work with some great visual effects artists due to a lack of greenlit productions during one of the last Hollywood strikes. There have been many earlier attempts at exploring this concept, but they tend to fall into a histrionic pattern after a while. Without Sam Rockwell's great talents at work here, this premise would have fallen completely flat. The aforementioned amusing aspect to this concept is evident throughout the satirical examinations of boredom for Sam Bell. When you are not mining or taking care of the base, what do you do in your spare time? Having a dialogue with someone other than "you" on a space station is also reminiscent of 1972's Solaris with a more amusing twist. So what then? Talk to the computer, talk to your plants, or talk to yourself?