Have you ever wondered just what kind of person takes those jobs situated in the middle of nowhere where they barely see anyone? What kind of person chooses to be so cut off from civilised company, distant from all they love and all whom they care for? Who would choose to go somewhere so far from validation, emotional satisfaction and the reassurance of your image reflected in the eyes of another?
Duncan Jones' dad, David Bowie, once pondered the sadness of such isolation in much the same way as he praise the qualities of jocular little people - "Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do". It seems highly appropriate that his son's debut feature deals with the isolation that comes from separation from the earthly as Sam Bell orbits our Earth from the lonely vantage point of a moon mining base.
Sam Bell has only Kevin Spacey's voice for company and looks forward to his wife's messages for news of home. Yet he knows that something is wrong and after recovering from a crash in a moon buggie, he escapes quarantine to find that the buggie is still there and that there is a very familiar looking occupant still alive inside it. Soon, Sam's own nature and existence are exposed and we discover that he is the answer to the question that begins my review.
Sam is fit for the purpose of the disposable needs of his employers, and in some way an echo of the characters that Ian Holm played in Alien and Lance Henriksen in the sequel. Bell's growing awareness of himself and his desire to snatch a real life whilst he can become the key topics for Moon. And in that sense, Duncan Jones' indie sci-fi movie is not as novel as it would like to be. Solaris, A:I, Alien and the like have all entered similar territory of mining a sense of human redundancy. There are twists on the films that have gone before but the roots of the story are not all that different to HAL 9000 deciding humans were expendable or the use of the crew of the Nostromo as bait in Scott's movie.
This is quite an achievement for a debut, however. The use of model effects is well executed, the design of Sam's living space is very competent, and to have an actor of Rockwell's talents at the centre of things is a very shrewd choice. This is though a familiar piece more than an inventive one. The music score by Clint Mansell is certainly after the work on Soderbergh's Solaris, Gerty the onboard computer is a flip on HAL 9000 with its conmspiratorial approach, and the sense of an exploitative multinational putting profit before people is any number of sci-fi movies from the last 40 years.
Still, familiarity isn't always a bad thing and I can forgive a sometimes artless exposition to enjoy the film and Rockwell in particular. Moon shows that the British film industry still has some talent and some good ideas, even if they recall past glories, and you could do a lot worse than lassoe a copy now.
Moon is transferred at 2.40:1 and presented in the MPEG-4 codec. The image is understandably desaturated with the preponderance of shades, contrast is impeccable, grain is barely discernible and detail is very good. Edge enhancement is not an issue and backgrounds are left as soft as they are meant to be given the mode of shooting. This a strong clean transfer that shows off the film very well.
The master audio track uses the range of speakers most extensively during the high points of the score and where the ambience of the living quarters is emphasised. There are very few moments of action so dialogue moving around the soundstage is not all that noticeable. The bit rate is very healthy and for such a low budget movie, this is a rich soundtrack with atmosphere well defined and reproduced.
Duncan Jones is present on both the commentary tracks with the collaboraton with producer Stuart Fenegan being much more sober than the one with the DP, concept and production designers. For me I enjoyed the more blokey jokey commentary with Jones being ribbed for his original script - "Sammy and the clones"! There's plenty on each track about how the effects were achieved on a budget of just $5million and how difficult choices were made, alongside some of the improvements made in editing.
Jones' short Whistle is included from 2002. The story deals with a family man and fixer of assassinations whose latest assignment leads to collateral damage and a re-examination of his life. It feels a bit vague and unfinished but there's definitely talent here.
The making of includes interviews, shooting footage from Shepperton and much of blue and green screen work. Rockwell praises Jones' passion and believes "fairy dust" has been sprinkled on the project, and Jones praises the drive of his team. The visual FX featurette is introduced by Simon Stanley-Clamp from Cinesite who did the effects on the film and he reveals the work done with composite shots and the switching between CGI and models for Gerty.
There are two Q&A's with the director included in HD. At Sundance, the questions are from film buffs and at the science center they are from... well you can imagine! The Sundance piece turns into a thankathon which gets a little tiresome. A theatrical trailer in HD completes the film based extras.
Trailers for other Sony product are the final inclusions.
A fine debut but don't buy that this is an equal to the likes of Alien or Blade Runner. A very good transfer and strong extras await the hi-def viewer