Friday, February 11, 2011

Moon (2009)

Be Aware!  In order for me to properly write about this movie, I need to write about the plot; which will contain some major spoilers!

Moon (2009)
Directed By: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to have “Cabin Fever” or being alone for years, then I’d suggest watching this movie.  Sam Rockwell does an amazing job portraying the effect.  I would say that this movie and Cast Away (2000) were pretty effective at portraying how humans are affected when left alone.  The effect of being by yourself is exemplified more in this film when we see the before and after effect of each clone side-by-side.  We’ve all thought about what it would be like if we were to be alone for years at a time.  Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000) started talking to a Volleyball and Sam Rockwell learns how to play Ping Pong well.  However Rockwell plays a character far from a Fed Ex Employee stranded on an island.  His character works voluntarily by himself on the Moon.  He is an employee of a multi-national corporation called Lunar Industries that gives Earth all the power that it needs.  This power is called Helium-3 fusion (I know, it sounds like a product that Gillette makes), and surprisingly this type of power has been purposed.  If you know anything about chemistry or physics, you can look up the Wikipedia article on Helium-3 and read all about what has been suggested.  Here is a Scientific American article that provides an overall explanation that is understandable to someone that hasn’t studied chemistry or physics.

Let’s just say that it actually was possible.  Okay, so we learned how to induce two Helium-3 particles to fuse together to make Helium-4 and release energy.  A huge corporation controls this whole process and provides 70 percent of the Earths power.  I think I would be correct in saying that this corporation would probably make a decent amount of money.  So why would a company go through all the trouble to clone and genetically engineer hundreds if not thousands of said clones to die after three years just so they wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of training new people?  I mean come on!  Make a bunch of clones, sure!  But train a new guy every three years, now that’s ridiculous!  My sarcasm aside, here is a graph portraying the only feasible option to use clones:
Note that after a certain time, the cost of training people and sending them to the moon would one day cost more than the original price of cloning one man.  This, however, would probably take years to occur depending on the price of “cloning”.  I hate taking this realistic approach to judging a movie (especially a science fiction movie), however this one loop hole needed to be addressed.  Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to discussing the actual movie.

Moon is a movie that I never expected to enjoy as much as I did.  I say that because it has a pretty freaking depressing plot.  The movie starts out with Sam Rockwell’s character (named Sam Bell) doing his daily routine.  His beard and long hair suggest how long he has been on the Moon.  It then shows us what he does, how he fills up his time, and the extent the loneliness has affected him.  He is so lonely that when he meets his clone, all he wants to do is touch him because he hasn’t touched another human being in what he believes is years.  We’ll get to what I mean about “what he believes” later.  We see him talking to his plants, to himself, and to his only other counterpart on the base; GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).  GERTY is an interesting character in this film, because he perpetuates Lunar Industries plot to use clones for their process on the moon.  GERTY’s parallel to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was enjoyable, and it was a relief to see a robot that doesn’t end up murdering or plotting against humans.  The best thing about GERTY, however, was “his” use of emoticons (For the layman, an emoticon is a facial expression pictorially represented by punctuation and letters and is usually used to express the users mood; for example; J ).  These emoticon faces with Kevin Spacey’s voice, make GERTY a main character in the movie.  The relationship that GERTY and Sam share is crucial to understanding why GERTY ended up betraying the corporation and helping the newly awoken clone to escape.  GERTY lived with so many Sam Bell clones that he became more and more human.  His emotions force him to want to help out the decaying Sam Bell.  I say decaying, because that is really what is going on with his character.  It looks like radiation poisoning, but I’m sure it’s just his genetic code being unwound or something science like that.

The most confusing scene to me in the movie was when Sam burnt himself with hot water while filling up a cup.  During this scene, he sees a woman sitting a few meters away from him, which is why he burnt himself.  However this woman wasn’t the same actress who plays his wife Tess.  I don’t know if this was supposed to be some sort of hidden message, or just some random girl his mind made up.  He could have potentially seen the same person outside on the moon when he crashed his lunar rover.  I couldn't find a picture on the internet, but the random girl is a brunette that could be played by the same actress who plays his daughter.  I'd suggest watching the scene and letting me know what you think.  The person he saw outside on the moon looked like it had an astronaut suit on, so it could have been another clone or just a figment of his imagination.  Most likely he was just going crazy, but it’s just an interesting thought.  Perhaps he was programmed to go freaking crazy so that he couldn’t have done anything wrong?  (I know, that doesn’t make sense)  Also, it could have been a side effect of genetically engineering clones to die after a certain time, but what would I know; I’m not a cloner.

I would’ve liked to have known which clone he was, or what cycle of clones the base was on.  I thought about it a little bit, and judging from the original Sam being there for three years, and his daughter being born while he was there, we can extrapolate which clone he was.  So when Sam called his daughter near the end of the movie she was 17 years old (the actress who played her was that age).  If we say that his daughter was born near half-way through his contract, then 15-16 years had passed since the original Sam left the moon base.  Now here is the tricky part.  How long do these clones really last?  We could say three years, however GERTY wakes them up and they think that they’ve been in an accident while they’ve been on the base.  The point is that we don’t know how long these clones last.  For closures sake, let us say that they last for two years.  That would mean that the Sam that is dying would be the eighth clone and the Sam that heads to Earth is the ninth.   In the scene where GERTY lets him log on to see his contract, we can see videos of previous clones getting “disposed of”.  I have yet to count them and see how many different clones I can see on the screen, but it’s all just food for thought.

Moon uses two camera shots overlaid to create the effect of two Sam Rockwell’s.  Special mention should be given to Rockwell for acting so well during these shots.  His reactions are perfectly executed and it seems like someone is actually hitting him when his “clone” hits him.  I watched the special features on how they did it, and they used an interesting method to film the part where he is wrestling himself.  The double that they used for Sam Rockwell wore a green mask and then they filmed Sam Rockwell making a “struggling” face.  They then digitally put it over the green mask and voila!  Sam Rockwell has an identical twin.  It’s pretty interesting when movies use the same actor to play identical twins (or in this case clones) and then to put them into the same shot.  Some examples of movies like this are Nicholas Cage in Adaptation (2002), Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask (1997), Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger (1999), Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (1998), and Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass (2010).  The interesting thing about older movies is they didn’t have the technology that we do today, so you really have to give credit to those movies.  I have yet to see Leaves of Grass, but I’ll probably watch it just because Edward Norton is in it (We all have our favorite actors). There are numerous other examples, including a handful of fighting/karate movies where the protagonist and antagonist are played by the same person (probably an ego thing; no one can beat me except myself).

All in all, Moon was rather enjoyable.  Who knows if it is a comment on corporate policy, cloning, or a thought about who would win in a game of Ping Pong against yourself?  Moon didn’t really have much advertising in the United States, and that was a shame because this movie deserves more recognition.  I think Sam Rockwell will become more and more of a mainstream actor and will probably stop getting parts as a villain in Iron Man 2 (2010), a villain in Charlie’s Angels (2000), a villain in the Green Mile (1999), a backstabbing con man in Matchstick Men (2003), and a hilarious Guy in Galaxy Quest (1999).  Also, if you haven’t seen Choke, and like author Chuck Palahniuk, then I suggest watching it.

A Message to Fans:
I’m there with you.  I’m not against you.  If you find that I’ve said anything here that offends your vision of how Science Fiction should be talked about, at ease!  I don’t write about movies that I find stupid, ridiculous, or boring (unless I’m writing a special article).  I really liked this movie, so don’t feel threatened.  If you disagree with something I said, let me know your version, I would love to hear about it!  Now that we’ve got that settled, here’s something to notice next time you watch Moon.  When the two clones are wrestling, watch the clone’s face that is in the headlock.  You can barely notice that it’s digitally put into the shot.

A Message for Non-Fans:
Like I have said before, if you don’t like Science Fiction, then I wouldn’t say that this movie isn’t for you.  It focuses more on the depressing nature of Sam Rockwell’s character more than the fact that the setting is on a moon base.  If you liked Sam Rockwell in other movies like Choke (2008), then you’ll enjoy his acting in this movie as well.

Interesting Fact: The director, Duncan Jones, is the son of singer David Bowie.

Potential topics to discuss:
Cloning: A reality?
Sam Rockwell as an actor
Helium-3 Fusion
Flow of the Film
Kevin Spacey as a voice


  1. I hated Chock (the movie). I didnt think it was anything like the book, which was at least somewhat thought provoking.

  2. That's a good point. But if you think about a movie being absolutely similar to a Chuck Palahniuk book, you have to realize that they have to change something for film. For instance, if you've read Pygmy (2009), you'll realize that they couldn't really transfer the book straight to film (not that I think they would). However, I do agree with you that in almost all cases, the book will be much more enjoyable / a different experience than the Film.

  3. Hey Drthn, did you notice that you capitalized Guy in "...and a hilarious Guy in Galaxy Quest (1999)"? Did you know that his characters name in that movie was Guy? Pretty funny pun there buddy, i'm glad that I caught it.

  4. Ich liebe der spoilen alerten. Nicey-nice durthin. (P.S. this is Dave)

  5. Thanks Dave! I knew that people needed to get their attention by a loud German ACHTUNG!

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