Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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From The Balcony

Directed by Duncan Jones

Review by Robert Moriyama

Moon is probably the quietest "science fiction" film of 2009. The only violence in it is a rough-and-tumble one-on-one brawl between the lead character and ... well, himself. If it doesn't make it to your local theater, it is definitely worth a look when it is released on DVD.

Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is the sole inhabitant of a small mining base on the far side of the Moon. Robotic mining machines cruise the lunar surface, extracting Helium 3, the clean fusion(?) fuel that now powers everything on Earth; Sam maintains the machines, and periodically collects containers of Helium 3 from them for shipment back to Earth.

It's a lonely job -- a three-year contract with almost no direct human contact, made worse by the failure of the lunar communications relay satellites so all messages to and from the Earth must be relayed via stations far beyond Earth orbit. Sam's only regular conversations are with GERTY, the base computer, with its robot avatars (camera-equipped manipulator arms suspended from tracks in the ceiling) everywhere in the base. He has grown a beard and let his hair grow out into a shaggy mane -- there is no one there to care about how he looks. But Sam's contract is almost up -- soon he will be able to return to Earth to see his beautiful wife and young (presumably less than three years old) daughter.

Then strange things begin to happen. Sam sees people whom GERTY assures him are not there; worse, when he is on a mission to check on a mechanical fault in one of the roving mining machines, a vision of a woman standing unprotected on the lunar surface causes him to crash into the mining machine.

Soon we see Sam awaken on a table in the base medical bay, his hair neatly trimmed, his beard gone, with no apparent injuries. GERTY tells him that he has been in an accident, and that he has been unconscious for a few days. She (or he -- the voice belongs to Kevin Spacey) advises him to rest, and indeed, his first attempts to return to duty are cut short when he finds himself unsteady on his feet.

But soon, he discovers that one of the mining machines is immobile. He wants to investigate, but a message from Earth orders him to stay put -- an emergency team will be dispatched to make any repairs required.

Sam becomes suspicious when he recognizes inconsistencies in the answers GERTY gives to some of his questions, and his memories seem to have gaps in them. He convinces GERTY to allow him to go out to investigate the immobilized mining machine, where he finds the base's other rover jammed against one of the machine's treads. Inside the rover, he finds -- an injured, bearded, older version of himself.

The remainder of the movie follows the two Sams as they try to discover the truth behind their impossible co-existence, and to decide what to do about it. The bearded Sam becomes increasingly ill as the clock ticks down to the day when he was due to return to Earth, and the arrival of the emergency team, adding to their worries...

Moon is more a mystery than anything else, with a minimum of computer-generated effects (most lunar-excursion shots were created using miniatures), no big explosions, no fights to Save The Human Race. Yet it also provides an intimate view of one man -- in two bodies -- struggling to define what it means to be human, and a sinister vision of how low a value a corporation might put on that humanity.

After the (well-deserved) fuss over District 9 dies down, visit Moon

(To see if "Moon" will be coming to a theater near you, visit http://www.sonyclassics.com/moon/dates.html )

© 2009 Robert Moriyama

Robert Moriyama is the current Short Story Editor* for Aphelion. For some reason, this seems to improve his chances for getting his stories accepted... (To be fair, he only runs his stuff as "bonus" material after filling the usual number of slots.) Among other things, he is the author of the Al Majius "Materia Magica" stories and several entries in the Nightwatch series.

(*Or "medditor" -- an unholy combination of "editor" and "meddler". Authors who have seen their work mangled know what this means.)

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