★ On "Moon"

Moon is a film by Duncan Jones. It stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, an employee of a lunar mining company that harvests helium for energy use on Earth. Sam is alone on the Moon, with no direct human contact and only his robot GERTY to keep him company. At this point, the film could have become one of three things. It could have become some sort of space opera where Sam fights Moon Men over natural resources. It could have become a cerebral, elegant, and poignant science fiction film in the vein of 2001. Or it could have become Mystery Science Theater 3000. And despite my unabashed love of MST3K, I am please to report that Moon is one of the best pure science fiction films I've seen in quite a while. The film is filled with beautiful imagery, an understated and effective score, and a very naturalistic and moving performance by Sam Rockwell. But the biggest reason to recommend Moon is the way that Jones approaches the subject matter. I hate to bash on Star Wars, but the series corrupted America's concept of science fiction. Sci-fi has became a byword for action-adventure in space, and even when brave directors have tried to break out of that formula, they haven't met with much success. Even films like The Matrix and its various knockoffs were simply "action-adventure IN THE FUTURE" or "action-adventure WITH COMPUTERS," rather than classical 2001-style science fiction. With few exceptions, the genre on film was for a long period of time nothing more than simple variations on action-adventure.

But science fiction isn't defined by explosions in space. Science fiction uses advances in technology to expose truths about the human condition and the way we adapt to brave new worlds. That's why I'm thrilled to see a film like Moon so well received. It's a film about a future that we can easily envision. What it does, like all great sci-fi, is explore the consequences of that future. And coupled with other recent projects like Caprica (yes, I know it's not set in the future, but you get the point), it gives sci-fi fans a little bit of hope about tomorrow's genre projects.

There's nothing wrong with big budget blockbusters like Star Wars. Those are really enjoyable films. But every once in a while, a Moon is a welcome relief.