The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The post where I try to talk about a movie I shouldn’t talk about

with 19 comments

Here’s the thing. There is this movie which I watched and loved but I don’t know how to talk about it. The less I say the better. Some films are like that – being so spoiler sensitive that the best service you can give the movie is to shut up.

What am I supposed to put in my write-up? I don’t know. I’ll think it over a bit, and meanwhile I’ll ramble a little about my life-long attraction to space, since I guess it’s somewhat related.

As a child I dreamed about becoming an astronaut. I also wanted to become a queen and a professional wine-and-cheese-taster. I became neither. The closest I got was an astronomer; I did seriously consider it as an alternative for a career, until I went on a weeklong internship at the astronomy institution when I was about 16 years old.

It was at that point that I realized that astronomers in reality didn’t spend a lot of time watching stars through a telescope. That was about the last thing they did. I remember speaking to one guy whose entire research had to do with the leaning angle of some rocks in the asteroid belt. All he did was examining the statistics for all those giant stones. He didn’t watch the stars. He stared at numbers. For a teenager who dreamed about what it would be like to colonize space, this looked immensely boring and unimaginative. He could as well have studied the angles of nuts and bolts in a concrete factory. So my life path took a different direction.

But the love for science fiction has followed me throughout my life ever since I read Asimov’s Foundation as a child. I always marveled at Hari Seldon’s time vault sessions and felt a chill down my spine as we got the shocking revelation about the second foundation and the mutant that put everything in disorder. Those books don’t stand a revisit very well, but it doesn’t take away from them my original reading experience, which was fantastic. Ray Bradbury was another author who opened worlds to me, and as opposed to Asimov’s writings, his short stories are still absolutely enjoyable, since they’re so well written, The Martian Chronicles probably being my favorite.

Considering my background it’s probably no wonder that I fell so completely in love with Duncan Jones’ Moon (yes, I’m finally going to talk a bit about the movie I’ve watched).

I can’t tell you a lot about the plot, but I’ll give you this much: Sam Rockwell plays an astronaut, the only employee at a space station on the Moon. His computer GERTY keeps him company and occasionally he gets recorded messages from his wife and child on Earth. His three year long assignment is going towards its end, and it’s about time. The isolation is starting to get to him and he can’t wait to go home. And that’s as much as I’ll give you.

This is something as old fashioned as a piece of classic science fiction, a story about ideas. Not about oversized robots tossing each other into skyscrapers. Not about cowboys who fire arms at each other, disguised in space suits. It doesn’t take a mega sized budget to make it. It takes a vision, a good script, basically an interesting idea. Such a rare spawn these days.

The director did incredibly well use of the comparatively modest budget of 5 million dollars – so well that he this year got the chance to make Source Code with a way bigger budget. But as we’ve seen so many times before, there is very little correspondence between the size of the wallet and how good the movie is. I thought Source Code was absolutely OK, even fine, but it didn’t stand out the way Moon does, which went straight into my top 20 or possibly even top 10 list of science fiction movies. It doesn’t beat Blade Runner, Solyaris, Alien or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but blimey, it’s right beneath.

Moon (Duncan Jones, UK, 2009) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

October 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Moon

19 Responses

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  1. This movie holds a good place in my sci-fi list as well. It was very compelling, especially once I realized what the premise really was. I would love to see more work done this way, or even a sequel (though sequels are like that big budget/little budget comparison you touched on).

    I really enjoyed the emotions that played out. There was a veiled mystery here that was really fun to watch unfold, an experience that does not often turn up in movies.

    I’ve wanted to watch it a second time, but the first experience (over a year ago?) is still really strong. I tried to watch it a second time but I just couldn’t finish…not because it’s not worth watching again, but because the experience is so powerful for me that I’d rather watch a lesser film.

    Strange?

    Glad you like it!

    gigahound

    October 19, 2011 at 5:33 am

    • Wow. An experience so strong that you couldn’t rewatch it… That’s quite something! But I’d be happy to rewatch it at some point, even now that I know what happens. With the mystery out of my way I could spend more of my attention on details, watching how we get there.

      Jessica

      October 19, 2011 at 7:34 am

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I was quite unenthused at the thought of this but Husband was very keen so I prepared to suffer through it for the sake of marital harmony, however it blew me away completely. I’m trying to work out if I’d watch it again; I can understand gigahound’s view that it was so powerful that they’d rather not watch it again, but also, like you, I’d like to go back and look for the details that I might have missed on the first watch. And I had no idea that the budget was that small. That makes it even more impressive.

    The Wide Eyed Imp

    October 19, 2011 at 8:34 am

    • I definitely think that the tiny budget gives food for thought. How many Moon movies couldn’t be made out of the money that is put into an ordinary blockbuster?
      And I hope you listen to your husband in the future! He seems to have a great taste for movies. 😉

      Jessica

      October 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

  3. I came across Moon from a tips from http://www.filmtipset.se. I hadn’t heard about it until it popped up as a recommended movie in my movie list. I think the movie was great and conveyed a sense that you want to know more about the universe the movie is set in. I will definately see it again as I have just bought it on Blu ray, hoping the photo will be even better in high definition.

    As for the Foundation series I have waited my whole life to see it getting filmed. Not without worry I may add. Is it even possible to make a good transition to the silver screen? But the universe fascinated me tremendously when I was younger, and still do (still reread it now and then) It has not been treated to well by time but the underlying saga is there.

    Michael Yngman

    October 19, 2011 at 9:04 am

    • There is an in-development project for Foundation, isn’t there? But yeah, as you I’m sceptic. I’m afraid it might end up feeling just like an episode of an ordinary sci-fi series, not catching the sense of wonder I felt as I read it as a child. But I’ll probably check it out still. For the sake of old love.

      Jessica

      October 19, 2011 at 9:20 am

  4. Definitely one of those movements I want to watch at some point, but in reality probably won’t get around to doing so for some time.

    Lewis Maskell

    October 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm

  5. It’s a very good movie indeed. A friend recommended it so I watched it and really enjoyed it.

    i agree with you, the best Sci Fi is about ideas. It’s why I like Philip K Dicks novels so much. What if we couldn’t tell the difference between robots and humans anymore? Would it be moral to kill them? Love them? What if we could tell the future, wouldn’t we want to abuse it?

    Carra

    October 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    • Oh yes, Philip K Dick. He’s lovely. And such a good inspiring source for movies as well. I wish they’d make more idea based sci-fi movies than they do. Laser guns are overrated.

      Jessica

      October 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

  6. Didn’t really like SOURCE CODE, but I loved this. A fantastic film that’s expertly written, directed and acted. Reminiscent of sci-fi classics such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and SOLARIS, this is the best space movie in quite a while. Better than that STAR WARS and STAR TREK nonsense.

    Tyler

    October 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    • Oh, I’m not a great fan of Star Wars, but don’t drag Star Trek into this! it’s great. Especially Captain Picard. 🙂 And the best episodes are actually idea based.

      Jessica

      October 20, 2011 at 10:09 am

  7. I liked Moon a lot, but I was a bit underwhelmed. Perhaps I expected too much after all the hype. But there wasn’t a character I could really latch onto and really appreciate. It was an interesting mind-stretcher, like a lot of the SF I read when I was young. In fact, it is really reminiscent of an Asimov short story, with a good helping of Clarke/Kubrick thrown in for good measure. But it didn’t strike me as something amazing.

    Steve Kimes

    October 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    • Being hyped is rarely a good thing for a movie. It’s always hard to live up to ridiculous expectations. As of me I had never heard of the movie until people mentioned it in connection to Source Code. And when I stumbled upon it in my library I thought I’d give it a chance and got happily surprised. That’s probably a better setup to get an enjoyable first meeting.

      Regarding that there wasn’t a character you could appreciate… No wonder… there weren’t all that many to choose from…;)

      Jessica

      October 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm

  8. I too liked Moon a lot. It is a difficult film to discuss because the mystery at the core of this film is better experienced not knowing a thing about it. It’s a low-budget sci-fi with a unique vision, and some talented direction from Jones, and a great performance from Sam Rockwell – and something he hasn’t come near replicating since. I really enjoyed your personal recount of your infatuation with space. This must have really hit a spot in your heart 🙂

    Andrew Buckle

    October 22, 2011 at 4:00 am

  9. Excellent report on Moon, Jessica – I agree, this effort by Duncan Jones is right up there alongside 2001 and Alien for iconic, intellectually stimulating science fiction.

    I think this is closer to Solaris than 2001, at least for the inherent humanity on display here, but I agree – Moon belongs in very rarefied company.

    Rodney Twelftree

    October 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

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