Luna Ranger

Close-up of Sam Rockwell's face in a space-suit helmet

My last post was about the moon. This one is about the new film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.

It opens with an in-story promotional video explaining that an isotope of helium abundant on the moon is now mined there to provide much of Earth’s power. The lone man monitoring the collection of the isotope is Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell. A robotic apparatus called Gerty is his only company; with satellite communications down Sam can’t even talk to his employers at Lunar Industries, let alone his wife and daughter, in real time. Thankfully his three-year hitch, darn near driving him crazy, is almost up. Or maybe it’s driven him crazy already? (Gerty is voiced by Kevin Spacey in
a tone akin to that of 2001’s HAL, adding to its potential menace.)

The above is more than I knew of the film going into it, and ignorance is preferable here. I was expecting a meditation on extreme isolation in a speculative-fiction context, and initially got just that, but there came a pivotal plot development revealed by most reviews I’ve since read. (Another name for science fiction, or SF, “speculative fiction” is used by some to connote greater emphasis on realistic exploration of sociology or psychology within a plausibly fantastic or futuristic scenario; put another way, it’s less about style and more about substance than much popular “sci-fi” today.) Even the film’s official website quickly hits upon a central conflict that I think is better left hidden, although once it’s introduced the viewer is still unsure of where the story is going for quite some time.

If you’ve read anything about Moon you likely know that director Jones, who devised the story adapted for the screen by Nathan Parker, is the son of David Bowie; born David Jones, Bowie referred to Duncan during his youth by his middle name Zowie. Had this relationship not existed, Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” would still have come to mind during the film, both presenting us with a cloistered astronaut confronting a perhaps literal, perhaps conceptual paradigm shift in his reality. Another serendipity that struck was the discovery that Trudie Styler, wife of Sting, was one of the film’s producers, as The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” was in my head on the way out of the theater. (Sting’s oeuvre also includes “Sister Moon” and “Moon over Bourbon Street”.) In the antonymic direction, Moon includes the most amusing usage of Katrina and the Waves’ hit “Walking on Sunshine” in a dramatic film to date, but its actual score, composed by Clint Mansell, is as appropriately evocative as its sets and cinematography.

Spoilers are fine in the comments section for those who’d like to discuss.

Moon still © 2009 Sony Pictures Classics.

Related: A Great Escape Life, the Universe, and Everything
Here Am I Sitting in a Tin Can, Far Above the World


  1. Hi Blam! Excellent post, I'm quite looking forward to this film. I have absolutely no idea about what the central plot point is you've referred to, and I'm glad you've not given the movie away. :) Thanks for that. Sam Rockwell is great, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he'll carry this movie off, given (from what I can gather) the lack of co-stars. Great post!

  2. El Qué12 July, 2009

    Oh, Batcabbage, you're in for a pleasant surprise... I know you said we could talk spoilers here, Blam, but we probably shouldn't yet, so I'll just say that your point (in the theatre) about even the last lines of dialogue adding to the story was right on. Yay Zowie Bowie!

  3. I think you'll like the film, BC, but some folks have apparently not found enough "there" there. At first, I worried that it might be too meditative, but I was in the right frame of mind and appreciated it (as I did your compliments). I don't recall if you're a BTVS fan, by the way, but I was struck by how often shots of Rockwell reminded me of Alexis Denisof, a resemblance I hadn't noticed before.

  4. You got me to add this to the Netflix queue. I agree with Batcabbage on Sam Rockwell -- Matchstick Men, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and of course Galaxy Quest, not to mention that song from the insurance ad.

  5. You got me to add this to the Netflix queue.
    I put it in mine, too, 'cause I'm looking forward to the DVD features -- and to discussing it with you. Just be forewarned that it's not for everybody (though I really think you'll like it). Some folks left our screening confused and I overheard one guy who really didn't like it.

  6. ... not to mention that song from the insurance ad.
    For those outside our age bracket or cultural references (and to ruin the joke by explaining it): Here you go.