Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review in Brief: 'Moon'

[Fair warning--spoilers abound]

Alright, so all those people bitching about how the Sam Rockwell indie movie Moon was ignored at the Oscars need to shut the fuck up right now, because that movie was a piece of worthless shit.

Not that it didn't have potential--a man all by himself on the dark side of the moon for a three-year jag has all the makings of a fantastic character study.

First mistake: They chose Sam Rockwell to play the lead (only) role and he has absolutely no charisma or depth. They needed Jack Nicholson, they got a pet rock.

Second mistake: They forgot to make the story compelling, letting the air out at all wrong moments--which completely removed any tension--and never building toward anything to root for or against.

Major spoiler here, but Sam Rockwell is a clone. In real life. Ha! (I think he is a clone of the world's first semi-socialized douchebag, actually. -Ed.)

Luckily for you, this revelation doesn't actually ruin too much of the movie because a big part of the problem with it is the fact that this is revealed way too soon. Not only that, but it is revealed by a recently "woken-up" clone, who should be the most innocent character, but is instead inexplicably more savvy than all the other identical 'people' that came before him. I say inexplicable because this incongruous situation is never explained, a reasoning never even hinted at.

Basically, this movie was somebody's ill-advised, wet-dream cocktail of The Shining, Multiplicity, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The twist here, stay with me now, is that Jack Nicholson is completely alone with no personality, there are only three clones instead of four, the original isn't around anymore, and HAL (aka GERTY) is inexplicably pathologically devoted to the nearest human, rather than the mission.

There is never any explanation as to why GERTY (admirably voiced by Kevin Spacey, albeit as an Admiral going down with the ship) was programmed to do whatever the human told it to do, which seems like uncharacteristically bad business-sense for a corporation that thought far enough ahead to build an array of remote-activated signal scramblers and stock the moon base with 200 clones to run it for the next 600 years with minimal trouble/expense.

I know somebody thought it would be 'awesome' to have Sam Rockwell play two versions of the same person (the third one never really participates), but they forgot that he is not Michael Keaton, that he is not a good actor. Sam Rockwell is good at playing a dimwitted rogue and that's about it. You know why? Because that is exactly what he is like in real life.

Quite a few popular actors, quite a few fringe actors even--Mr. Rockwell being a prime example--make a good living playing a barely-clothed cinematic version of themselves. This is not to say that they are completely without talent--since it takes a certain amount of talent to not shit yourself on camera, remember all your lines, draw a gaze, etc--but it is worth pointing out that there is a deep divide between a Sam Rockwell and a Daniel Day-Lewis.

There is a reason why range is such a coveted talent among actors--it implies that the person can actually act. This skill is the main reason actors get nominated for awards (most of the time) and also why Sam Rockwell was deservedly not nominated for Moon.

Aside from that, can we get into the issue with cryonic freezing? Who the hell would ever think there is a need to be in cryonic suspension for a mere three-day trip back to Earth?

I mean...the concept of freezing people for space travel exists as part of a theory of how to get the human race to other solar systems that are light-years away, so as not to require generations of space travelers to get shit done--not to go to the fucking moon.

Yet we are supposed to be affected by the fact that the clones in Moon are vaporized in a faux cryogenic chamber, killed just as they think they are going home? Spare me--ignorance is bliss...
"Oh, you're going to Africa? Well, step right into the cryogenic chamber and you'll be there before you know it!"

Mind you, this might have worked if the clones were proven to be extremely stupid, but come on--they had to be programmed with a certain level of intelligence to operate an entire space station by themselves. This intelligence precludes the notion that they would be so ignorant as to blithely go along with the cryonics ruse simply because a some dude smiling on a video screen tells them it's cool.

On a related note, if the clones have an average life expectancy of three years and there are ample stocks below, why wouldn't the powers-that-be not just let them peter out and then replace them as needed? What need is there for the cryonics ruse in the first place? Based on the evidence presented, it all seems too forced.

One of the more interesting ideas in the movie--and, sadly, one that was never fully explored--is the notion that people in solitary confinement on the moon appear to have an average life expectancy of only three years, which is potentially based on the life-span of the initial, fully-human Sam Rockwell, or on the lifespan of an engineered clone...we never know.

Which means we never get to know exactly what Sam Rockwell #1 is struggling against--is he fighting a man-made life expectancy or a psychological life expectancy? If we don't know, we can't really care that much. Apparently the filmmaker didn't care about this a movie about the psychology of being alone on the moon...huh.

Come to think of it, what exactly were we supposed to care about in this movie? The fate of a dying robot? I could never really climb aboard that notion, since there was nothing about Sam Rockwell that seemed endearing, relatable, or significant. He and the director seemed more concerned with the detail of the experience--the model of the town, the exercise, the programmed video messages, the sleeping--than the emotions of the affair, which is certain death for a movie that depends entirely on emotional thrust. After all, this is not an action movie--it cannot rely on explosions, danger, bravado, and tits--it needs to mine the depths of the human psyche and in that task this movie fails miserably.

If the whole point of the movie is for Sam Rockwell to escape the lunar hellhole and get back to Earth, back to loved ones, why is it that it took Sam Rockwell #2 to make Sam Rockwell #1 even think about getting home early, even think about the fact that maybe his superiors have been lying to him?

Why is it that Sam Rockwell #2 is apparnetly the first of many clones to suggest that he is a clone, only minutes after being 'born?' Why is Sam Rockwell #2 immediately savvy to everything, full of ideas, hopes and dream, etc?

Shouldn't it be the case that Sam Rockwell #2 benefits from the well-earned wisdom of a dying Sam Rockwell #1 and is ultimately able to escape and lead the rewarding life Sam Rockwell #1 desired for most of his brief life? That would seem to make sense...

Minus the whole 'life and death' element, think back to the plot of Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom right now and now imagine if Short Round had to tell Indiana Jones what to do at every step of the way, had to let Indy know what was going on, and then Indiana dies and Short Round escapes.


I know, but that is sort-of what happens in this movie. The only thing epic about this movie is its disappointment.


- Does it even take 3 days to get to the moon now? Wouldn't they find a way to do it even faster 200 years from now, or whatever vague futuristic period in which this movie took place?

- Why did Sam need further proof that he is a clone (ie, driving outside the scramble zone to call Earth and discover his 'daughter' is 12 years older than he thought) after he finds an entire secret room full of hundreds of clones that look exactly like him?

- Wouldn't the rescue team see the four sets of footprints in the moon-dirt (that never blows away, since there is no wind, mind you) leading to-and-from/to-and-from the crashed rover and know something was up, and then maybe check the clone inventory, realize something was up, and send a warning to Earth to be on the lookout for a clone in the fuel launch? Just sayin'...

- Note to the Director Dude: What the fuck was with that lame ending audio? You should have chosen one great, emphatic soundbite and gone with it. Let the point soak in, let the audience slowly realize/confirm what you are saying with this movie. As is, it just comes off like a bad sci-fi movie with no purpose, which in this case seems sadly appropriate...


1 comment:

Karl said...


You better hope David Bowie doesn't read this. No one fucks with the Star Man's son...

I didn't think this movie was anywhere as dire as you thought it was, but I do agree that it had big logic holes that are very problematic. The one I really couldn't swallow was that HAL/GERTY would be programmed to help the human and not the mission. Come on, we're not idiots. Way, way too convenient.

And I agree that the initial promise of Sam Rockwell has not panned out. He's not a leading man, can't carry a movie--though he can be good in character parts tailored to his weird energy (Jess James, y'all!!).