Monday, February 22, 2010


I bemoan the deficiency of real science-fiction in the theater these days. Too often, what passes for sci-fi are action movies with a veneer of futurism. We are served shallow depictions of impossible futures which blatantly violate known laws of physics and sociology; they are fast-paced, effects laden fantasies. They may be exciting, they may be fun, but I can't in all honesty consider them sci-fi.

Moon is sci-fi.

I missed Moon when it was first released this summer. It came out with little fanfare and was only released to select theaters; by the time I had heard of it, it was already gone. Fortunately, it made enough of a splash that Sony Pictures had to release it to DVD; a rare honor for an short-running independent film.

Moon is a story based around character and atmosphere. Science-fiction aficionados will appreciate the care that went into the setting (although as always, I have a few quibbles about the space suit in vacuum; it should bubble out more rather than cling to the actor's skin, but that's a minor nitpick). The sets are crafted in the style of 2001 or Silent Running; a stark contrast of utilitarian futurism with the lived-in look of Outland or Alien. There are no aliens in Moon; this is a story set in the realm of the High Frontier technology, not in the super-sciences of Star Trek.

But Moon is not about technology or science; it is a low-key drama about the fall and rise of a man. Sam Rockwell elegantly plays the role of Sam Bell as he struggles with the travail of his isolation on the far side of the Moon, and later with questions of who he is and what he strives to achieve. Kevin Spacey voices the role of the robotic Gerty; perfectly unemotional except for a few simple emoticons, he channels the spirit of Douglas Rain (the voice of Hal in 2001). Never afraid to move at its own pace,  the movie avoids all the predictable plots and moves on its own unique and unexpected path. It mixes mystery and suspense and drama with the wonder and vastness we normally expect from science-fiction.

Moon is science fiction as it ought to be made; it is the sort of science-fiction we geeks can be proud of. Star Wars and its ilk (of which I am a great fan) are impressive light-shows, but ultimately pabulum that do little to improve the genre. Moon is proof that the category of movies consisting solely of man-eating alien monsters or wise-cracking, laser-gun toting action-heroes. It is a genre capable of standing on its own with the greats of classic fiction.And for all its entertaining quality, it is the last that makes me appreciate Moon most of all.

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