[Moon opens this Friday at the Landmark Uptown Cinema. These thoughts follow the preview I wrote after seeing Moon at MSPIFF, followed by a Q & A with writer-director Duncan Jones.]
As I mentioned in that meme thing a while ago, one of the things I love about movies set in the future is that the imagination can run completely wild. Even when this blank slate leads to perhaps overly ambitious ideas, it's still fun to consider the possible delights. Or in the case of a movie like Moon, consider the possible horrors. It's not a frightening movie to watch, but the core elements of the story are enough to keep any technophobe up at night, possibly terrified of impending developments in biomedical engineering and astrophysics.
Based on its production budget alone (if not also your ticket price), Moon is likely the biggest bang for the buck you'll see all year. Working with a paltry $5 million, writer-director Duncan Jones constructed an astonishingly impressive lunar surface by using the ancient technique of scaled models. I'm of the opinion that for the most part, bigger budgets and bigger CGI developments have led to less impressive and less realistic effects, and I'm even tempted, for example, to argue that the effects in the original Star Wars trilogy are better than the prequels. But I refuse to spending enough time watching the prequels to find that evidence. Anyway, in addition to appreciating the story potential and the high production values of Moon, I was bowled over by the elegant, haunting piano score by Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain).
Unfortunately, what Moon boasts in technical achievements it lacks in emotional depth. Our protagonist is Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell, a personal friend of Jones for whom the part was specifically written), a contract employee of Lunar Industries who is finishing a 3 year-term living alone on the moon - that is, aside from the a sentient computer, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). His work mining Helium-3 from the lunar surface is monotonous and isolating, and as he begins to prepare for his trip back home to his wife and child, Sam makes a highly disturbing discovery.
While Rockwell does his best to bear the emotional burden of his character, there was something missing at a deeper level of the story for me. Maybe Jones felt that more involvement from Gerty, for example, would make Moon more of a knock-off of 2001 than it already is. Whatever happened, Moon ultimately didn't horrify or disturb me nearly as much as I expected, or, to be honest, as much as I hoped.
Jones is next directing Mute, "about a woman whose disappearance causes a mystery for her partner, a mute bartender. When she disappears, he has to go up against the city’s gangsters." He has $25 million to work with this time, and considering he made Moon look so good for so little, I hope he invests more resources this time in somehow developing a little more emotional "oomph" from another promising premise.