There’s a father-son parallel in the story behind Moon, the first feature from director Duncan Jones to get widespread U.S. release. The first hit record by his dad, David Bowie, was an eerie mood piece about being lost in space, “Space Oddity.” Moon has a similar theme and, like the song, shows the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It also is extremely refreshing, in this age of Transformers-style movie banality, for placing a sci-fi story (by Jones and Nathan Parker) above CGI effects and Dolby-amplified bombast. In fact, its spare and muted set design and color palette are critical reasons why it has an eerie and mysterious vibe. However, it’s not 2001 redux — it’s ultimately a little too minimalist to convincingly handle its final action sequences and plot complications.
The wiry Sam Rockwell, one of the most sensitive and exciting actors to emerge from the indie scene, nicely plays an astronaut finishing up a three-year stint as a moon miner, working for a corporation that needs a lunar mineral for energy demands on Earth. His only real companion is the robot/computer GERTY (voice by Kevin Spacey), although he gets a delayed-transmission message or two from his wife on Earth. This actually seems to work well for him, and his life seems OK. But then he starts seeing things just before it’s time to go, and this leads to some serious problems.
While 2001 is one influence, the story line also has conspiracy-fantasy overtones of 1978’s pulpier Capricorn One. It isn’t that broad, thankfully, but it shows Jones is capable of giving us a relevant, literate, thought-provoking sci-fi movie that also has clever, pop-fueled twists. Grade: B
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