Summer Movie A-Go-Go: “Moon”

Posted: August 19, 2009 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Moon 1Here is what Moon is, since most reviews seem deathly afraid of revealing its shocking twists: it is a solid, thought-provoking piece of science fiction; it is grounded in the dilemma of its warmly-developed central character (and a showcase for the always awesome Sam Rockwell*); and it is well-directed,  focused on story and character over FX (in fact, it’s almost quaint in its use of  models over CGI).

Here is what Moon is not, despite what the reviews (and the trailer, which to its credit, does backflips to keep potential viewers from immediately figuring out what’s happening) might have you believe: it is not particularly shocking or twisty.

In fact, the only “twist” happens before the first third is even over, when Sam (the character’s name as well) suffers an accident while driving a rover and then wakes up, groggy and confused, back at his base of operations, his robot companion running him through mental acuity and fine motor skills tests.

This leaves two options to fill out the remaining  75 minutes: 1) he’s going mad from nearly three years alone on a moon-base, or option 2 – he’s not. And if he’s not going mad, then, well, you’re all fairly well-versed in science fiction, so you can probably guess that there is cloning involved.

Which is when the movie gets more involving – but not more surprising. As soon as Sam meets himself, the rest of the plot unfolds predictably.

That may sound like I’m bashing the movie, but I’m not using “predictable” in a pejorative sense. I mean that it unfolds logically, in a way that always makes sense to the viewer. There are no out-of-left-field developments. Once you consider that the company that developed a system of one lone guy operating an isolated base would also have a contingency plan based on having a clone of the guy ready to go in case of accident, there are certain story elements and plot beats that you start filling in for yourself.

The movie, to its credit, doesn’t try to trick the viewer out of these assumptions. It trusts that its story is compelling enough on its own without trying for inorganic surprises. And for that, I give Moon a lot of credit. It’s not here to be all Shyamalan-esque. It’s here to tell a story about a desperately lonely guy forced to confront himself – literally – and raise questions about a corporate system that would put him in this situation.

Which makes it superior to a lot of bombastic crap that tries to pass itself off as sci-fi. And so it gets:
Crystal Skull Crystal Skull Crystal Skull Crystal Skull half
3.5 crystal skulls. A very good movie – but again, since the coveted 4 skulls means a summer movie you absolutely have to go see in theaters, I’ve got to hold off on the extra half. It’s a good movie – but it’ll be just as effective on your TV with the lights out when the DVD’s released in like two months.

*Rockwell will most likely not get an Oscar nomination for his performance here, and that’s a shame, since I imagine acting against himself, in two distinctly different versions of the same role, and occasionally against a bulky robot who only communicates via rudimentary emoticons (and the ominously soothing tones of Kevin Spacey) is no easy feat.

  1. SB7 says:

    Very well said.

    For me the twist was that there was no twist. Half of me kept waiting for the “everything you know is wrong” moment to come along and it never did, which was exceedingly refreshing.

    I do think it benefits from a screening in a theater, or at least a good home theater set up. The VFX and score were both good enough to warrant experiencing them on a decent screen and sound system.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    That is a good point, SB – yes, ideally you should have a pretty decent home setup, since it is a very good-looking and sounding movie.

    If you tend to watch movies on a 20-inch set with rabbit ears, then yes, you may want to hunt down a local theater showing this.

  3. Hsiang says:

    Too many genre movies these days rely on the Big Shockeroonie for impact rather than, oh– Good Writing and Actorating. Looking forward to the DVD, thanks for the review.

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