Moon, the Film

(This post was originally published at the author’s website, Hahvi.net.)

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 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.

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