Off the Shelf…'Moon'

When Moon was first released, its awareness and later its success mirrored that old story of “The Little Engine That Could”. Moon slowly but surely made waves in the film circuit and was eagerly awaited and rightfully praised at each proceeding festival. With its popularity strongly brought about by great word of mouth, it quickly became one of the films to see of 2009. In a genre where it is very tough not to do anything cliché, overdone, and achieve something new, Moon felt both refreshing and familiar and, in what I believe can only be described as alchemy, the elements in this film combined to produce a nearly perfect film.

In the scheme of great “sci-fi” I’d say this gets very close to joining the ranks of iconic films like Alien, 2001, and Blade Runner as far as (and solely for) its style, but also for its very note-worthy and groundbreaking special effects achievements. The baby of Duncan Jones, the son of “Mr. Glitter-n-Glam” himself David Bowie, this film is just as stylistic as his father was before him, but maybe brought down a notch or two. Well more like 87 notches down if you ask me. For Duncan, being that this his first feature-length film, I’d say his efforts here are impressive as all get out and Moon played like a movie from a very seasoned director, not a rookie.

The one thing I really loved about this movie was that you never knew where it was going. Was this movie all a dream? Is it a slow-paced horror movie? Is it going to rip-off 2001?….When it was none of those and yet resembled them all in parts, it really played out effectively. To me, the beauty of Moon was that it didn’t let you know what this movie was trying to be until the twist. For me I loved that it kept me guessing. It kept me much more interested than I imagined I would be as my mind spun to establish just what was going on. I guess you can liken it all to the way it cleverly seemed to recall Spielberg’s trademark “slow reveal”.

In addition, like many Hitchcock films, I believe this movie is a classic example of more done with less. The beginning and the end were done so minimally that it was very easy to get the message and intent. With just the right amount of info (given very succinctly but tastefully stylized) you could then be fully on board with the plot of the movie without requiring too much of back-story or exposition. Movies that over-do that ultimately affected the pace of the film and bog you down with too much information.

Now to say that Sam Rockwell (who seems to like space movies I’ve noticed) hit this out of the park would be an understatement. He did such a fine performance in what was nearly a 1 man show. A la Tom Hanks in Castaway (which is a better movie and role than people seem to want to give credit for) Rockewell shows his complexity without going over the top way which can happen in a 1 man show. Agree or disagree with me but I find that Micheal Keaton and Don Cheadle act (sometimes) in the same way and all three of them are severely underrated for the talent they posses.

Also, I have to throw Kevin Spacey some credit for his faceless but still impressive voice work as “Gerty”. His simple line readings gave this ambiguous character a bit of life that, much like the, plot made you unsure if this ultra-sophisticated robot was smart enough to make decisions for himself or, as his programming was written, to work for Sam. But I couldn’t help shake feeling an uneasiness that he would ultimately go rogue. I guess I’m brainwashed by what countless robot films, space films, and robotic space films had done in the past. The fact that Jones script didn’t go that route made the plot it all the more mature (and relieving).

A complex SFX film involving amazingly convincing CGI (best multi-pass character layover I’ve seen yet), beautifully realistic sets and actually quite believable miniatures, Moon is utterly gorgeous throughout. You have wonder just how they did certain SFX scenes. In older films like The Parent Trap you’d see the old “split screen” method used. In more recent films like Multiplicity and The Nutty Professor, you would see the actors takes layered on one another but they’re still pretty much confined to one area of the screen. Yet here and also in The Island, you have the characters over lap each other, and even interact…actual (well apparent is more like it) physical contact, and that’s just astounding if you ask me.

Moon is gorgeous in almost the way that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Up was “eye candy” on top of the great story. It was still beautiful to look at and even more so in the way it was portrayed in a very subdued manner. Moon had a sophisticated and muted pallet that would make Steven Spielberg jealous. But I guess that’s not hard to do when you use mostly all greys:) Paired ever so well with Clint Mansell’s melodic, ethereal and slightly haunting “spacey” score (big fan of his since Smokin’ Aces), his theme music gives life to the film’s desaturated imagery, in the same way Rockwell does with his performance, without trying to steal the scene.

All in all, Moon surpassed my expectations. The emotional toll the job had taken on “Sam” was played so well by Rockwell and the portrayal of his emotions. Moreover, the undertones he exhibited throughout this film playing his character really showcase his talents (I guess it’s a bit easier to get into the character when the actor has the same name). Moon should take him to the next level of acting and give him the recognition he deserves in the near future. I truly hope to see more great things from Sam Rockwell because of his fine work here.

G-S-T Ruling – 4.5/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED

Comments

  1. Rockwell really is great in this. quite a simple film but great. All the online clamour for it to get noticed might make it, ironically, a bit overhyped – it has a pretty poor ending – but its definitely worth a watch

    • Well, the internet can pretty much over-hype anything and you’re right, this was no different. Also, I can I see how you think the ending was a little lame, but I still liked the film as a whole. In my opinion, the ending was a whole lot better than Sunshine…man I wish I could like that movie. The second half really killed it all for me:(

  2. Warren says

    Liked the “2001” elements, the vastness and solitude, initially. Got into the plot as it unwound. Also, thought the ending was good, allows the viewer to write his own (ala Hitchcock).

    • You got that right Warren It really was a film that was made so much better with that wide-open and ambiguous ending. It’s also one that benefits with a second and third viewing to see how things were layered. In fact I think I’m going to watch it again this weekend….after the OSU/OU game of course. Thanks for the comment and welcome to G-S-T!

      • Rockewell makes all his performaces look effortless…except maybe Hitchhiker’s Guide which is just a trip.

        Love Duncan’s style in that he doesn’t have to spoon feed us or on the other hand beat us over the head to get the story points across. Letting is all unfold naturally is very mature film making…and that was his first film too.

        On that note, Source Code was more in the vein of the high octane/Hollywood style of film making but it still felt like it was handled better and more restrained than you’d expect. Especially considering films like Fast & Furious trying to reset the bar for excitement.

  3. Fantastic movie. You’re right on that this is a picture in which the “less is more” philosophy reigns, and I’m glad to see someone describe the film’s “twist” as a “slow reveal”, which is much more accurate and does the film more of a service. Jones isn’t “twisting” anything; he’s clearly building up to that point from the very beginning of the film. Very mature filmmaking, that.

    Rockwell, though, is the reason to see Moon— he shows off his range like a champ, running a gamut of emotions and essentially playing different versions of the same character. It’s no small feat at all, and he makes it look effortless.