Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above, I would miss all the places and people I love

moon

I definitely appreciate that Duncan Jones is trying to create a science fiction film that’s as much about ideas as it is about C.G.I. logistics with his feature directorial debut, Moon. Set in an indeterminate future era in which our global energy shortages have been solved by mining the moon, the film’s story begins with a corporate drone who’s the sole denizen of a lunar outpost where he monitors the largely automatized equipment. He’s nearing the end of a three-year haul, getting a little buggy from the solitude. Complications are set in motion when he heads out in a rover to investigate a problem with one of the massive mining machines. From there, Jones gets into the heart of his story (which he conceived and then handed off to Nathan Parker to write the script), which is fairly simple, even a little thin, and yet, like the best science fiction efforts, allows for an abundance of intriguing ideas to be examined. Without getting into plot details, Jones has room to examine corporate ethics, notions of self-awareness and the basic questions about what makes us human in the first place.

The platform is there, but there’s no launch. These notions are brushed against, if that. Jones is deliberately cryptic at times, just one of many ways that he emulates that granddaddy of all cerebral cinematic sci fi, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are absolutely times that this approach enhances the film by demonstrating confidence in the viewer. It doesn’t need to be spelled out, for example, precisely how and why one of the characters is enduring a rapid physical deterioration. A few hints and logical ripples off the overarching story should allow most moviegoers to adequately do the math on that. Generally, though, this pulled back approach leaves the film underdrawn, weakly thought out. It may inspire some thoughtful philosophizing, but there’s not much inherent to it.

It’s not hard to figure out what drew Sam Rockwell to the lead role. There are a few other actors, but the movie completely belongs to him and is filled with acting challenges. He is largely up to it, although there are a couple of unfortunate moments when he relies on antics in place of characterization. I believe that he’s giving it his all, trying to find the deeper layers. But, in the end, his professional toil is as lonely as that of his character. He’s been put into place, but no one’s helping him make it all work.

(Posted simultaneously to “Jelly-Town!”)

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