The general vision of the modern science-fiction films is that they should be quite extravagant affairs with as many bells and whistles attached as possible. With so much action and set pieces, space has become rather loud, almost vulgar when one compares J.J. Abram’s “Star Trek” and TV’s “Battlestar Galactica” to earlier works such as “Alien” or “A Space Odyssey”. “Moon”, the first feature length outing of Duncan Jones (otherwise known as Zowie Bowie) seeks to use the latter pieces in such a way as to return the claustrophobia and isolation to the world beyond man.
Jones intends here to create an exercise in minimalism using one large soundstage as the setting for the piece. The space station is sterile and cold, soiled as the result of human habitation and utter utilitarianism harking back quite strongly to “Alien”; here space does not make a sound. For a story debating the nature of what it means to be an individual and extreme corporate greed and exploitation, the setting is nothing short of perfect.
A mock advertisement establishes that in order to solve Earth’s energy crisis, lunar soil would be exploited for the benefit of clean nuclear power; Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is finishing his three year placement on the lunar surface extracting this resource and not quite alone. He is accompanied by the computerized system Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) and occasional video messages sent from Earth from his wife and child as instantaneous communications systems are in need of repair. Or so they’d have him think.
As his service contract comes to an end and his health declines, Sam begins to deconstruct his fiction-based existence and aided by another Sam Bell. Due to the difference in temperaments between the two, Rockwell makes this movie his own by playing the foil and friend to his central character.
This is truly Rockwell’s movie as the entire piece hinges upon his ability to drive the sparsely plotted tale and create the human element within these sterile surroundings. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Gerty who’s role is never defined fully. Spacey seems content to voice him similar to Hal 9000 in “A Space Odyssey” but who essentially hampers plot development with his lack of answers in some scenes and yet dogmatic devotion in others leads him to become a caricature of the iconic Kubrick role.
Also, the sense of pop culture irony implemented from the early moments of the movie become rather heavy handed and wooden quite quickly when repeated ad nauseum. In a movie dealing with the nature of human emotions versus the need for technology to streamline a process, such additions could create a timeless feeling, illustrating how consistent this battle is but due to the age of them, the theme never seems more than a literal allegory.
The ideas dealt with here are intriguing but never feel worked out due to the lack of a streamlined plot and the clunkier elements above. In the end, it is the smallness of scale that is both the saviour and major failing of the piece as a whole.