Sunday, September 6, 2009
I was basically obligated to see Moon, because it was directed by a fellow alumnus of my undergrad school. Although, Duncan Jones has been in the alumni category a decade or so longer than me. He was famed, previous to his first feature length release, for being the son of David Bowie. This was buzzworthy at my school. It is rare that celebrity children end up in the philosophy department of small town Ohio--Wooster, OH, to be more exact, and of all people, David Bowie's son. But no matter whose son he had been, I probably would have have thought, "of all people!" I guess that's the way it goes.
Anyway, it doesn't matter whose son he is. He clearly has a talent all his own, although reviews of this film will probably have a hard time separating his subject matter here from the aura of his father. Jean Renoir probably had the same problem when he was starting out.
In Moon, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is up on the eponymous cratered orb harvesting something or other, because it has recently been discovered to be a solution to Earth's energy crisis. He is approaching the end of a three year stint, completely alone except for the robotic GERTY, who is placidly voiced by Kevin Spacey. GERTY is a fairly brilliant creation, in my opinion. He seems immediately archaic, big and bulky like the first models of computers. Though his voice reveals nothing about his emotions (if he indeed, has any), he has a screen on which an emoticon pops up to accompany his dialogue and give it an emotional spin. GERTY's initial interactions with Sam introduce a philosophical discussion of what exactly makes us human. Advanced as GERTY is, and as much as we view him as a character, he is programmed. Throughout the film, he displays only about five emotions, and most of the time he is either happy, sad, or perplexed. GERTY's emotions begin to mirror Sam's as he is thrown into the turmoil that results from meeting oneself.
...Zounds! Yes, Sam does meet himself. As it turns out, Sam is a clone of the original Sam. His memories are implanted. When our Sam's succeeding clone is awakened too early, the two come in contact with one another. What follows is sort of a fascinating character study and analysis of human nature. By inserting the original Sam's memories, they replicate him exactly. Or do they? While their life experiences differ only by three years, this distance is enough to mollify Sam I into a mellow, albeit moderately deranged person, while leaving Sam II erratic and angry. The two begin to acknowledge their shared memories, and still they act as individuals. What we are left to question is whether every Sam evolves the same way.
By setting up an army of successive clones, the regime that implanted them attempts to mechanize humanity, to program it as GERTY has been programmed. Up until a point, they practically succeed. For instance, we see Sam charting his time on the moon by drawing smiley faces on the wall that mirror those on GERTY's screen, as if his capacity for emotion is waning with only a robot's interaction. Still, as Sam insinuates, the complexities of the human mind and spirit cannot be harnessed in this way. He says something to this effect to GERTY, as he removes the "kick me" sign from his monitor. Still, the fact remains, outside of Jones construction, that much of human history has demonstrated how the human will can be pathetically weak, as often as it can be strong. We can become like machines, if we lose our self-awareness.
Like all good science fiction films, there is much more to this film than clones in space. It's worth seeing, and it has a nice score from Clint Mansell, who brought us the memorable soundtrack to Requiem For a Dream.