Movies  |  Reviews

Release Date: June 24

Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker

Cinematographer: Gary Shaw

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

Studio/Run Time: 97 mins.

The dark side of the Moon 

Moon is, at first glance, a derivate take on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And first-time director Duncan Jones is overt about his stylistic appropriations, right down to the sweeping orchestral music that frames the opening shots of the titular satellite and Earth. Yet where Kubrick tapped into existential fears about human extinction and the future of civilization, Jones hypothesizes the logical conclusion of that dark vision: a world where the need for more energy has rendered humanity a manufactured cog of multinational corporations whose reach now extends beyond the boundaries of Earth.

The film’s plot centers on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only human on a lunar mining facility that harvests Helium-3, a clean fuel that can meet a near-future Earth’s ballooning energy demands. Base computer system GERTY (Kevin Spacey doing yeomen’s work as a less homicidal version of HAL) is his sole companion on Sam’s three-year caretaking mission, since a supposed satellite failure means he can only send and receive pre-recorded messages. When an accident nearly kills Sam, he’s saved by a clone of himself and begins to unravel the sinister nature of the base, and his existence. 

Moon cribs heavily from the retro-futuristic look of '60s and '70s sci-fi for its claustrophobic and sanitized depiction of the moon base. Computer panels and instrumentation displays offer the few splashes of color and life in the base’s stark, all-white corridors, making for an arresting cinematographic vision of the intersection between humans and machines. But this high-tech eye candy is only the backdrop to a larger morality tale about humanity’s ever-shrinking position within a technologically-saturated society: when the human experience can be synthesized (and thus made disposable,) does such a thing as "humanity" even exist?

There’s a host of challenging philosophical threads throughout—cloning, masculinity, energy, corporate power—but those individual issues complement rather than engulf the larger narrative. The familiar-yet-alien landscape of the Moon is a perfect tabula rasa for these introspections, and a symbol of our real-world forays into “the future.” Moon is a superlative example of science fiction that hearkens to the genre’s roots: social commentary on the human condition, without the easy catharsis of overblown special effects and space opera. It’s the ultimate rarity in modern cinema: a mature, engaging and thoughtful sci-fi movie, and proof that there’s life yet left in the genre.

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