Apparently Duncan Jones used to be somebody starting off. Now he’s kind of a joke after two-straight stinkers. This begs the question: Was he ever actually good?
If Moon is any indication, then yes, he was good at one point. In his debut feature film, Duncan Jones has Sam Rockwell star as a space worker of sorts who’s been “stranded” on the moon for the last three years with only the company of a robo-helper named GERTY. With two weeks left in his three-year contract, he’s looking forward to finally being able to return home to his wife and child. When an accident occurs while out doing space work, he comes to discover something very, very strange.
This is an interesting film. My wording is one that I use carefully to describe this film, as “interesting” is one that means little more than its root definition in this case. I was fascinated by the secrets that became clear about halfway through, by the events that would shock and awe the imaginative mind. As a source of entertainment, it’s lacking. The first thirty minutes were slow and seemingly empty, chock-full of scenes with basic interactions and subdued feelings showcased in a transparent manner. The ending hour alleviated the meaning behind these scenes, but not to the point where it felt as though it made up for the dullness experienced in that span.
Sam Rockwell is very good in this film, in that he gets to play a few different characters to a vivid degree (hint, hint). Initially, he seems normal, a lonely worker wishing to return home to finally find the comfort of another person’s touch. As mind-bending revelations come into focus, he begins to shift into a specific subset of his own personality. This actually threw me off for a good while, as my mind began to interpret it on a psychological level, believing he had suffered from a split of his person (hint, hint). As it turns out, it ended up being more simple than that, more easy to place blame and view a clear antagonist in the larger picture. It reminded me of general sci-fi boogeymen that past stories of the genre incorporate—not necessarily bad, but a little less creative.
Scenes that display the moon in its empty, silent, space-y glory were fairly nice, but the space rover Rockwell’s character uses felt a little too obviously prop-ish. Space as a visual concept has always appealed to me, so to say that I liked the environment is almost guaranteed. Something about the way it all feels so simple in nature, only to have vast secrets hiding within (or here, in plain sight). I did like the inside of the space station he resides in, which felt appropriately white, sterile, and bereft of any personality, perfect for the mental deterioration of a soul.
As implied above, the film is one that is more interesting than entertaining, more immersive as the story slowly uncovers its immoral hand. The first thirty minutes were pretty lackluster, while I could barely take my eyes off the screen with twenty minutes left. Rockwell’s performances (hint, hint), the isolating effect of the moon, and the intrigue provided by the sci-fi premise are what make this film interesting and unique. What ultimately makes it a little disappointing is how simple it all feels after its end. This is a film for sci-fi nerds, to put it somewhat bluntly. (Fun fact: I consider myself more of a sci-fi nerd than otherwise.)
For a debut film, there’s a lot to like about Moon. It showcases a knowledge of creative storytelling that pulls people in and keeps people hooked until the end. What it lacks from the truly great films, in my view, is the lack of deeper impact that many sci-fi films present through subtle (or otherwise) social commentary or a rumination of human anxieties. In hindsight, everything in Moon feels too straightforward. Perhaps Jones took it for granted that the audience would simply pull everything the story may mean to imply with its deeper connotations, leaving only to keep pace until the finish line. To keep with an ongoing phrase, it lacked that emotional “oomph” to it all. Even so, it was a rewarding and fascinating watch. And I have a better appreciation for Sam Rockwell.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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