Duncan Jones’ Moon may seem like a harmless little indie film, but it’s a real tearjerker.
The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:
This superb independent film, along with Europa Report, shows that intimate low-budget space films can surpass the blockbusters in terms of heart and story. Unless we’re talking about Guardians of the Galaxy, cause that’s my jam. Sam Rockwell holds the entire film on his own, save for some voice acting by Kevin Spacey — why not? For every Charlie’s Angels Rockwell plops in our collective toilets, he apologizes with films like this. From its highly detailed and plausible aesthetic to the plot that deceptively makes you think everything is routine and mundane, Moon paints a picture that all can appreciate.
It also makes guys cry.
It’s deceptive at first, as there are no explosions or Bruce Willis saving the planet, but this is definitely a manly movie. From the artificially intelligent Kevin Spacey-bot to the technical near-future endeavor of harvesting resources from the moon’s surface, it walks the line between character drama and technical manual. There’s even a brief siege of the compound by space bad guys, which is always approved in my book. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t make us cry, and in space, no one can hear you cry. Unless, you know, you have a vid-phone.
1. The big twist
Without giving too much away (I’m going to give everything away), Sam Rockwell is actually a series of clones being tricked by a corporation into thinking he’s the original. When one dies, another takes his place, and everything is reset to look like the new one’s just started his 3 year mission.
The entire weight of the film revolves around Sam discovering this, and realizing that he’s not who he thinks he is. Loss of identity is only one of the major ramifications of this realization because…
2. His family has moved on
Due to “communication interference” (sabotage), Sam can only get recorded messages from his family which we then learn were recorded years ago for the original Sam. When Sam makes actual contact with his family he sees that his child is now a full-grown adult, whereas in the videos his wife was still pregnant.
Plus his wife is dead…so there’s that whole chestnut.
The more horrifying aspect of that is not that he missed out on the life of his child or death of his wife, but that the real Sam didn’t. We hear the original Sam in the background of the live feed, showing that he’s been with his family all along and this clone — or any other clone of him — doesn’t even have a family to reunite with. That’s heavy on top of heavy, doc.
3. The toothpick house
One of the only things that doesn’t reset every time a clone is replaced is this toothpick dollhouse that’s been worked on by every clone prior to the movie’s protagonist-clone. Each clone works on it a little bit, and then the next one picks up where the last left off. Sam even mentions that he doesn’t know where it came from, but he just started working on it as something to do.
This monument to murder is like a mass grave; the bigger it gets, the more bodies it represents. The idea that Sam would be so bored that he would just start working on this art project without knowing where it came from is creepy, but becomes downright macabre once the truth is revealed.
4. Robot Spacey
Kevin Spacey voices a (debatably) artificially intelligent ceiling-hanging creature that communicates with speech as well as emoticons. The movie is brilliant in how much this combination can convey, especially when the robot starts working with Sam to overthrow the evil corporation. Several times robo-Spacey seems to run into programming walls that it can’t overcome, requiring round-about thinking to get the information needed.
But the presence of those walls suggests that he is not artificially intelligent, but rather simulated intelligence (to borrow from Mass Effect). As such, he shouldn’t have the ability to go against his evil masters. Yet he does, which suggests that what was being done to Sam was so evil, so horrible, so objectively wrong that a computer re-wrote its own programming to become sentient just to help Sam. He even asks to be rebooted at the end, so the corporation can’t interrogate him on what happened.
When’s the last time you saw something so evil that your entire plane of consciousness was adapted to comprehend it?
5. Lifespan’s a bitch
Just like the replicants from Blade Runner, the Rockwells have a limited lifespan: in this case three years. Within the movie we start out with one Sam, thinking he’s going to be the one that overthrows the corporation. Then he meets his clone, which is how the twist is revealed. The bulk of the film has two Sam Rockwells running around, shaking their fists at Tony Stark.
The “rescue” team (read: murder squad) from the corporation comes up to investigate, and the clones throw a third Sam Rockwell at the goons just to slow them down. Then the first Sam dies in a rover crash just to distract the company. All this…and the best the second clone has is three years. The film ends with audio detailing the exposure of the company and the testimony by the clone, which is all fine and dandy but it’s not like he gets to live happily ever after.
Best case scenario: he dies after three years and maybe, maybe they stop waking up his clones. Maybe. Gotta keep those stockholders happy, ammiright?