Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…
If ever there were a debut with an elephant in the room this is it. And, here, it’s an elephant which no-one seems to want to acknowledge: not the director, not the marketers, and curiously, not the critics: every review you see studiously and kindly and respectfully treats Duncan Jones as just any first-time feature film director. Yet everyone quietly wills him to do well, giving hopeful benefit of the doubt to a feature which, for about 30 minutes, looks to be a pretty mediocre sort of outing.
And then it dawns on you that this film isn’t ordinary at all, and it’s casually dug into some gnarled and complex questions about isolation and alienation, through the metaphor of a lonely and seemingly deranged individual, rattling around in – well, in a tin can – irredeemably isolated, far above the world.
And then you notice the big old elephant again, sitting quietly in the room, and you get to wondering what it might have to do with anything.
For, to spell it out, the scenes where Sam Bell (a terrific Sam Rockwell) is forced, quite literally, to confront himself, and doesn’t like what he sees, resonate very strongly with the artistic output of another fresh-faced British artist whose burst on the scene, a generation ago, exploring similar themes through the prism of similar metaphors.
Moon doesn’t owe everything to David Bowie, of course, but pretending it would have been picked up, financed, viewed or received as it has been had Duncan Jones not been christened Zowie Bowie seems fanciful. That’s certainly why I made a point of seeing it. To be sure it is artfully low budget (the crappy miniatures of the moon base are hilarious), its production design is neat and cheesy (somewhere between the The Tomorrow People and Silent Running) and it bears as much resemblance to Silent Running and Solaris as it does to its more obvious analogue, 2001, a Space Odyssey. And here perhaps is another in-joke: Jones, in his directors Question and Answer Session, makes much of Alienand Blade Runner as antecedents and jokes (no doubt referencing Space Oddity), that 2001 was really more an influence on his parents’ generation than his own!)
I’m not sure I’d put Moon quite in Ridley Scott’s league), although robot Gerty, not altogether persuasively voiced by Kevin Spacey, is something of a cross between HAL and Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Moon certainly gets better as it goes along: early plot improbabilities (such as why would anyone, let alone a man with a young wife and child, take up a three year janitorial role in solitary confinement on the far side of the moon?) are resolved satisfactorily, and rockwell’s excellent performance builds out impressively as the narrative develops. This is certainly thinking persons’ sci fi, and I’m pleased I saw it.
Jones’ next film, he says, will be the “spiritual successor to Blade Runner”.