Released in barely over 250 theaters, Moon earned rave reviews from critics and those were lucky enough to see it in its limited engagements. With Sam Rockwell holding the entire weight of the film on his shoulders, Moon became one of the greatest sci-fi films in recent memory to really drive home the sense of wonder that is space. Although it’s a very “lonely” film in its construction, the performance from Rockwell is what has kept the film in the mouths of those who have seen it. Now arriving on DVD, those without theaters that carried the film are now able to witness one of the great sci-fi films from 2009.
Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the completion of his 3-year-long contract with Lunar Industries, mining Earth’s primary source of energy on the dark side of the moon. Alone with only the base’s vigilant computer Gerty (voiced by Oscar-Winner Kevin Spacey, 1999 Best Actor, American Beauty) as his sole companion, Bell’s extended isolation has taken its toll. His only link to the outside world comes from satellite messages from his wife and young daughter. He longs to return home, but a terrible accident on the lunar surface leads to a disturbing discovery that contributes to his growing sense of paranoia and dislocation so many miles away from home. Moon is an engrossing, intelligent sci-fi thriller that ranks with genre classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Oh, wow!” you’re saying. “He really liked that movie to build it up like that in the intro!” Well…not really. I’m only echoing what others have said about the film; I found it to be a huge disappointment to be honest, although it is still something I’d recommend purely based on the execution of the film itself. And Rockwell really does deliver an amazing performance here, so that wasn’t just me blowing smoke either. The problem I had with the film stemmed from the plot and its execution more than anything, but I’ll tackle that in a bit. First I’m going to remark on the positive aspects of the film before I tear into it.
The big thing about this film? The look. It’s full of whites, both dirty and clean, and the space station looks immaculate for the most part. It’s a really remarkable bit of visual stimulation, as the film itself was able to be made with so much great talent because it was constructed during the writer’s strike, which left many talented individuals without projects to work on. As such the settings, special effects and scenery rarely, if ever, look hokey or unfinished. Plus director Duncan Jones had a special effects background from working in commercials, so he knew where to spend the $5 million dollar budget. So in the end we got a very desolate, monotone at times, space station that really just worked in every possible fashion. Plus there was the Kevin Spacey voiced robot named Gerty, which employed a fantastic string of smiley face AIM-type icons that “emoted” for the machine.
And, of course, as previously mentioned, it was Rockwell’s performance here that really drove the film home (and if you don’t want spoilers then I suggest you stop reading now since from here on out it’s going to be nothing but discussion on the topic). While the premise of the film was a mystery to me going in, the idea of the station being manned by clones that “expired” after awhile was…well, that was an issue I took with the film but Rockwell really knocked the performances out of the park. From the various versions of the Sam’s on the station to the plan that they made together to escape…it was all really just exceptionally well done.
So if there is so much to enjoy about the film, why didn’t I like it? Well for one it seemed rather…drab. Not just the color scheme mind you, but the plot itself. There are all kinds of logistics about why you would use clones to man a space station on the moon and in the long run it makes sense…but why keep the memories from the original clone “source”? I’ve no idea who the original Sam was in the film, or if we ever saw him, but that doesn’t really matter. I just find it a bit strange that they would create a clone who would always be looking forward to leaving…but then again we’d have no dramatic pull for the story otherwise.
Another thing that irked me was that the reaction to seeing a clone of yourself wasn’t quite as…”crazy” as I thought it’d be. The first Sam we see, the one who burns his hand, has an adverse reaction but the newest clone doesn’t seem to care at all. It’s a curious situation and really quite confusing…but maybe in that day and age clones aren’t as strange as one would think. But we don’t really have any background for this world, so it’s all a big mystery.
But the biggest thing that disappointed me about the film was just how predictable it was. Once the clone bomb was dropped…that was it. There really wasn’t any other big mystery or anything of that kind; in the end the film ended up being just a performance piece for Rockwell and the visual artistry that Jones brought to the mix. Which isn’t a bad thing…but it’s hard to re-watch something that has such a very linear progression from point a to point b. Hell the film was so short that each act only lasted about half an hour. Which is all it needed, granted, but it just seemed kind of finite in what the film could “be;” by that I mean it was just very contained feeling. This was probably an intentional effect for the film, granted, but I still couldn’t help but feel things were off slightly.
There are various other ideas floating about online for the film (like there were no clones and it was all just the imagination of a dying Sam in that lunar rover vehicle), but for me the premise was fairly straightforward in a sci-fi kind of way. It wasn’t a terrible film and one that’s still Recommended in a 2001 type fashion, but it’s not something that lends itself too well for repeat viewings.
Sony unveils Moon on DVD in a single disc DVD release (a Blu-ray release is also available). The film itself arrives in a standard Eco-friendly DVD case without any kinds of inserts, although a foil-reflective slipcover is included (which allows the very 70’s looking cover to pulsate off the shelves a bit). Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the transfer is clean and clear. As previously stated it’s a bit drab in the visual department, but the whites are still very vibrant and clean. Audio is rather subdued with a DD5.1 mix; there are some environmental type sound effects, but for the most part it’s a very quiet and dialogue driven track for the front channels.
Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble
Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan
“Whistle” – A Short Film by Duncan Jones (28:45)
The Making Of (16:17)
Creating the Visual Effects (11:09)
Science Center Q&A with Duncan Jones (20:48)
Filmmaker’s Q&A at the Sundance Festival (11:16)
Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
As you can see there is a quite a bit of special features on the disc and the dual commentaries are really quite interesting. The film is short enough that another couple repeat trips with commentaries is actually quite beneficial and while there is some overlap between the two tracks, they’re still worth listening to. The remaining extras are pretty self-explanatory and easy to digest, although the “Visual Effects” piece is cool simply because of the amount of miniatures used in the film (as opposed to CGI).
Overall a Recommended release, especially if you enjoyed the film.
Moon is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.