Thursday, February 4, 2010

DVD Review: "Moon"

Bored yet of supercute babies eating semi-solids? Me too. So in an attempt to engage with those readers who may have no interest at all in the eating habits of our spawn and may actually want more of the hard-hitting coverage that has come to characterize this blog-product, we offer you a taste of what's been streaming into our skull via that sole source of at-home entertainments, the DVD player, fed a steady flow of media-disks from Netflix. Ho yeah!

Let's talk about Duncan Jones' first feature-length movie, "Moon." But first let's talk about Duncan Jones.

Here's a picture of your father that I've plucked out of the mists of the internets.

And here's a picture of Duncan Jones' father.

Based solely on genetics, which of you is better equipped to make a trippy yet thoughtful, seventies-inflected sci-fi film seeped in otological angst and possibly sinister technology? The child of Mister Whitebread over there? Or Ziggy Frickin' Stardust? I mean David Bowie is a one-man macro-culture with all the identities he's got floating round. Talk about existential. The guys got to commit ethnic cleansing just to choose a deli sandwich.

To tell the truth, the less said about Duncan Jones' awesome dad the better. While it's impossible not to think of the doomed Major Tom as the film's protagonist takes his "protein pills and puts [his] helmut on" the film would be fantastic regardless of the directors genetic background. Seriously, did you see that poster? It's unique and I knew I had to see any movie whose poster had such great design.

So what happens in the movie? Yeah the's on the moon. Connect the dots, man. Yeah. There's apparently an extremely lucrative source of neigh limitless clean energy to be harvested from the dark side of the moon. The process however necessitates a human operator to monitor the mostly-automated process. Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is one such observer at the tail end of a three year contract with Lunar Industries. Throughout the lonely tour-of-duty, Sam's only had the company of GERTY, a centralized AI for the lunar base with only a crude animated face to express emotion (voiced brilliantly by Kevin Spacey)

Communication between the lunar base and Earth is a dicey affair so most communications are pre-recorded messages from his wife and infant daughter. To reveal much more beyond that would be disingenuous frankly, but watching Sam Bell slowly come to grips with his situation is really amazing. Rockwell was robbed awards-wise this year. The word tour-de-force has been bandied about a lot vis-a-vis this film and for once I don't think it's hyperbolic. Rockwell carries this movie start-to-finish and its success (and believe me, the film is successful) is a testament to Rockwell's ability to make this utterly fantastical situation feel oh-so relevant. It's almost Kafka-esque with Bell as a reluctant Gregor Samsa. (Was that pretentious or what? Boy-o!) But honestly, Rockwell made me believe in the relationship between Bell and GERTY, and as the third act played out, I found myself caring more for GERTY, with his clumsy 8-bit face, than I ever did for WALL-E, and believe me, I liked the Pixar flick a lot!

The design of this movie is a great feather in its cap. Some independent films can't hang in regards to design, but "Moon" is punching well above its weight and I'd happily set its design (if not its somewhat lacking, if sparse, CG effects) against the designs of Sam Rockwell's other sci-fi film of 2009, a small little movie you might have heard of called "Avatar."* And I mean that. I mean, just look at that poster! It is somehow utterly unique while simultaneously remaining totally iconic of the kind of 1970's sci-fi that clearly inspired director Duncan Jones. And on top of that it works as an advertisement. It hits all the tonal points and communicates that this isn't sci-fi action or a space opera. It's paranoid and isolating, thoughtful.

Honestly though, if my Kafka reference and continual use of the word 'thoughtful' are making you hesitant, thinking that this is somehow 'Art Haus' fare or that you need a BA in comparative literature to enjoy it, hold on! It's actually pretty thrilling too. There's intrigue, distrust, an imposed time limit that rolls the pace of the movie right along. And in case you've surmised from my ambiguity regarding the plot, there is what might loosely be defined as a >ahem< "plot-twist" though I wouldn't be inclined to use that word. I think the plot is in of itself pretty twisty, and in that Twilight Zone-ish fashion the plot would certainly 'work' independent of the ontological undertones.

And Meridth loved it too.
"GERTY! I told you, you don't eat my Corn Pops! My name is right on the box! Buy your own dude!"

* As pointed out by my beloved friend Alex, Sam Rockwell is not, in fact, in 'Avatar.' No, I know! What was I thinking?
They don't even look remotely like each other! Wow. That's egg on my face. But now that I'm thinking about it, what would Sam Rockwell have done with 'Avatar' in the place of Sam Worthington? Would it have improved the movie?


Natalie said...

Best film of last year. I loved it.

Josh said...

Geez, Ed. This review itself was a tour de force. I already wanted to see this flick, but now it's getting moved up the queue. Just have to find the time for Inglorious Basterds, another film I imagine you love.

Edward said...

Yeah it was weird. There were two independant-ish movies tha twere out at the same time, and because I didn't have my act together I missed them both in theaters. "Moon" ended up being great, aside from the fact that everyone has tried to correct me, saying "You mean, 'New Moon' that vampire movie?" And the other movie "The Hurt Locker" was only alright. I mean I liked it but...maybe I'll review that next.

I totally am with you Natalie. As for "Inglorious Basterds" I wanna see it. I do. I just don't think I'm going to convice Meridth it's something she'd want to see.

Anonymous said...

Ahem... Sam Rockwell isn't in Avatar. I imagine you're thinking of Giovanni Ribisi. Or Sigourney Weaver.


Edward said...

Epic fail me, there Alex. I = loser.

I was thinking 'Sam Worthington' but crucially I was not thinking 'These two people don't look anything alike. Why is it I think they're the same person?'

Now my review needs an addendum. Boo.

Edward said...

Also: I did in fact discover that Sam Rockwell was the well-loved 'Head-Thug' in the vintage original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie. Believe it.