Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Moon, the Film

October 21st, 2013

Moon_film_posterUntil recently, I’d never heard of the movie Moon, directed by Duncan Jones and released in 2009, but over the past year I saw it mentioned several times in social media in a generally positive way — so last night I finally sat down to watch it.

Did I like it?

I think so.

The trouble is, I really didn’t like the beginning. The opening of the film created a lot of mental resistance in me of the “I am totally not buying this” variety. But deep into the movie it suddenly became very interesting. It was as if the director wanted the opening to look like cliché (and succeeded all too well!), the better to surprise viewers later on.

* * * * SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW * * * *


The movie opens in a mining station on the far side of the Moon, in a set that looks like it was put together using leftovers from 2001 A Space Odyssey. There is even what seems to be a sinister, controlling, and all-too-powerful AI, clearly intended to make us think of HAL from the same movie. The station itself has a great amount of elbow room, as well as being furnished with items that must have cost a fortune to ship, like an antique-style armchair. The lone inhabitant of the station is Sam Bell, who is very near the end of a three-year contract. Sam has an absolutely gorgeous young wife back on Earth who, in video messages, professes to love him. He also has a young daughter, whom he must have left when she was an infant. Except for the mining station on the far side of the Moon, all of this struck me as false. Here’s why:

* the future depicted looked like the future as it was depicted when 2001 was made — basically, an old, expired future.

* why build such a big station when only one person was intended to inhabit it?

* if energy is so cheap that a big station with furniture is no big deal, why aren’t there other settlers on the Moon?

* solitary confinement has been described as a horrible punishment, emotionally devastating — and yet this presumably billion dollar station was planned to be handled by one person, alone for three years? It makes no sense. Even if the company doesn’t care about the mental health of an employee, it seems like a lousy investment risk to put your entire operation in the hands of an employee likely to crack up.

* man leaves his beautiful, loving wife and baby daughter because…he will be paid a hundred million dollars so that after his three years of sacrifice he’ll be set for life? Well, no. No reason at all is given for why Sam took the assignment.

So the whole setup feels bogus — and if you’ve watched the movie, you know that it is! The problem with this approach is that we have seen so many very bad science fiction films that it’s easy to believe this is yet another one. If Moon had been a book, I would have stopped reading long before I reached the interesting part. But it’s a film, not a book, and I was tired and didn’t want to work or to read, so I kept watching, and eventually it got very, very interesting as the director played reverse with most of my expectations. I liked that. Everything started to make sense as I was forced to question my own initial assumptions.

Granted “sense” is debatable in a hard science fiction context, but it made sense within the story’s very interesting premise.

I won’t say anymore. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it. If you have, please let me know what you thought of it.

Posted on: Monday, October 21st, 2013 at 9:42 am
Categories: Movies.
Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “Moon, the Film”

  1. Paul (@princejvstin) Says:

    I do think the visual homage to 2001 was definitely intentional

  2. Linda Says:

    Agreed. So did you like it??

  3. Paul (@princejvstin) Says:

    I did in the end. My suspension of disbelief held until things got revealed about what was really going on. And Kevin Spacey as the voice of the computer really clinched it for me.

  4. Jay Says:

    Loved it. Works on many levels, but most perfectly as an allegory for the faustian bargain most males are still expected to make in western society – go out to work, support your family, but miss out on actually being there to see your kids grow up, miss out on realtime face to face communication with your loved ones.

  5. Linda Says:

    That’s really interesting to me, because as mentioned, that’s one of the aspects that I had a lot of problems accepting. Even in the military, spouses are gone for “only” six months to a year. It’s hard to imagine a couple choosing this, and expecting the marriage to survive.

  6. jay Says:

    Agree the scenario presented is pretty extreme. I found my credulity stretched a little by how long it took him to figure out what was going on, too, and I thought the grief/anger ratio was wrong for a bloke cooped up alone like that… But as “warning flag sci fi” a la 1984 or Time Machine, I thought it was spot on. Most of my friends would have told their boss to piss off if they’d been asked to take work home in the 1990s. Now they’ve drifted into having the tablet at home, taking calls, responding to emails, shutting the door between them and the kids if required etc etc… It’s a Swift(ean?) slippery slope towards not being allowed any time during which you’re fully present for family, and they can see they come first. I also hated the twee “he gets to testify” happy ending, which felt forced and wrong.

  7. J. Daniel Sawyer Says:

    I suppose I cheated a bit, as I first saw it on a recommendation from someone whose film judgment I find impeccible, and as a some-time filmmaker I saw the visual indulgences (like the wingback) for the aesthetic/in joke touches that they were, so they didn’t trip me up overmuch.

    I absolutely loved the film–and thought the AI was a nice touch in terms of being tuned to help take the edge off the solitary confinement madness. In the end, I saw it as making the case for large-scale manned space exploitation, rather than for the conservative path of space commercialization advocated by some which sees very little value in human presence in space beyond that of administering our machines.

    I’ve seen it probably five times now, it’s one of the favorites on my shelf. I think that it is one of my two favorite SF films of the century so far–the other being The Man From Earth (another film that, while not without the occasional conceptual tripping point, is beautifully executed, well-acted, and masterfully written).


  8. Linda Says:

    And Dan, as you just pointed out to me on twitter, the director of MOON also directed my recent-ish favorite SF film, which is Sourcecode. I find that fascinating.