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Moon (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/12/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/4/2010

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" is an old saying which describes the relationship between a parent and their children. This typically refers to the fact that the child has a similar occupation or displays behaviors/traits like that of the parent. At first glance, this adage wouldn't apply to rock icon David Bowie and his son Duncan Jones. Jones was involved in academia before entering the filmmaking business. But, with his feature film debut, Moon, Jones suddenly bears a striking resemblance to his dad. Bowie became famous in the early 70s with his Ziggy Stardust persona -- The Space Oddity. Now, Jones has made a film which is an oddity itself -- a moving, thought-provoking film set in space.

Moon is set in a future where Earth's energy crisis have been solved by the mining of a material found on the moon. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works on the moon, monitoring a group of huge machines which scour the surface, dislodging the materials. When he has collected enough, Sam launches canisters to Earth. Sam signed on to a 3-year mission at his post, and he's alone in the base, save for a computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Sam's stay on the moon is about to come to an end, and he can't wait to get back to Earth to see his wife and daughter. He communicates with them through delayed messages, as the lunar communications tower was damaged. With just two weeks to go, Sam is very excited. But, then things get weird. Sam sees a woman in the station. Next, he goes out to check on one of the big machines and wrecks his moon rover. Following this, Sam's world is turned upside down, as he learns that he's not alone on the moon and that his trip home may be delayed.

When you think about science-fiction films, what comes to mind? Star Wars? Transformers? Independence Day? Sure, these films have science-fiction elements (aliens, giant robots, etc.), but they really lean more towards action-adventure than science-fiction. True science-fiction isn't always considered with laser battles. Instead, it explores the relationship between man and technology, and most of these stories are set in the future. Moon certainly fits this description, as this is one of the more cerebral sci-fi outings that I've seen lately.

I deliberately made my above synopsis of the film vague, as I didn't want to give away any of the plot twists. (Although, the trailer gives away the first one.) This may sound odd, but the movie plays like a combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Fight Club. Sam is all alone in this all white, presumably once very clean and sterile environment, and he's been there for 35 months. At first, Sam seems like a fairly well-adjusted guy, but then odd things begin to happen. Are they real or is Sam finally succumbing to the pressure of being by himself for so long? The story, by Jones with the screenplay by Nathan Parker, certainly sticks to a science-fiction mold, but it unfolds like a mystery, as we are given little bits at a time. The finale is both touching and exciting, as Sam finally learns the truth.

Jones and his crew deserve kudos for the film's presentation. This little movie contains a ton of production value and the sets look fantastic. As noted above, they have the all-white look of 2001, but everything has a worn look, like the sets from Alien. The miniatures used for the vehicles on the moon's surface are a nice change from CGI. Jones has chosen a somewhat odd way to pace the film. If you haven't seen the trailer, the first twist is definitely shocking. But, when the second twist is revealed, it's done in a very laissez faire way. Sam is basically told the truth, but it's not until a few minutes later that he and we, the audience, actually grasp what is happening. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Moon is the amount of emotion here. Going in, I didn't expect the film to be so dramatic, but the last 1/3 of the film is quite sad at times. However, this sadness lends a great deal of power to the finale.

Duncan Jones has created an impressive debut with Moon. However, the film does have some slight problems. While it is fairly well-paced, it does drag a bit in the middle. There are many dreamy shots of the lunar surface which certainly create mood, but could have been trimmed. Also, the ending definitely leaves some unanswered questions, and this could bother some viewers -- but doesn't all above-average science-fiction do this? My biggest problem with Moon is despite the fact that I was impressed with it, the mystery nature combined with the heavy final act mean that this is a title with little replay value.

Moon constructs a town out of wood on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Given that many of the backgrounds are white, the fact that this picture is spotless is quite impressive. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has an excellent level of detail and we can clearly make out textures on surfaces. The image has impressive depth as well. The Disc has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, most notably when Sam is in the rover. The surround sound is notable as well, and the amount of rear-speaker action in key scenes helps to place the viewer in the moment. The subwoofer effects are very good, most notably in the rover crash. Overall, an impressive presentation.

The Moon Blu-ray Disc contains seven extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery, and Production Designer Tony Noble. There is then a second COMMENTARY with Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan. "Whistle" (29 minutes) is a short film by Jones, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but is not 16 x 9. This tells the story of a 21st century assassin. "The Making of Moon" (16 minutes) is made up almost entirely of comments from Rockwell and Jones, and on-set footage. They discuss the challenges of playing and shooting multiple roles. "Creating the Visual Effects" (11 minutes) looks at what is involved in shooting the same actor twice in the same scene, as well as the film's robots and miniatures. "Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones" (21 minutes) is taken from special screening of the film in March, 2009 at the Space Center in Houston. Jones takes (some excellent) questions from the audience. "Filmmaker's Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival" (11 minutes) is somewhat similar to the first Q&A, but still informative. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long