Thursday, 7 January 2010

Duncan Jones' MOON and why I love it so

Let me explain to you why I love the movie Moon so much, why it is such an important film for me and what I hope it means for the future of science fiction cinema.

I was born in May 1971 so as I grew up I was exposed to all these new movies full of imagination, creativity and beautiful futuristic designs. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Alien, Blade Runner, Outland. These and others embedded themselves in my mind, and as I grew older and revisited them year after year I was impressed on not only an entertainment level but an emotional one as well. A few years ago I began to miss these kinds of films – in fact, the only one I saw that even remotely reminded me of them was Soderbergh’s ‘Solaris’ from 2002, and even though I enjoyed it I found my appreciation of it slightly discoloured by Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Solyaris’ from 1972, a film I was never a huge fan of.

I blame Star Wars for the decline in thoughtful, story- and character-driven science fiction films. Don’t get me wrong, I was eight when I first saw it and I was fully wrapped up in the Star Wars love explosion – in fact, I still am. I still love it and still watch it. It’s just that Star Wars changed the nature of these kinds of films. It started the trend of summer blockbuster action-adventure laser explosion battle movies that we see now. Some of these were great movies but the decline, even the extinction, of deeper meaningful science fiction movies was to upset me for many years.

I think I realised this after Independence Day came out in 1996. It’s everything I hate about blockbuster science fiction – it had bland characters, an unoriginal storyline, overbearing special effects, awful dialogue and a badly realised conclusion. It was then I realised how much I missed science fiction with much more cerebral content. I wanted to think about what I had seen for days after, be amazed or terrified by the experience. Fireworks are over in a second, inspiration lasts a whole lot longer.

I was overjoyed when Soderbergh made Solaris, I’ll not deny that, because I saw it as a return to more thoughtful science fiction. It was excellently realised and shot (the fact that I wasn’t a big fan of the original was my own baggage and shouldn’t have reflected on the quality of the movie) and kept me thinking after the credits had rolled. There was just something missing, something I couldn’t put my finger on. Maybe, in some strange way, the movie had tried too hard to be deep and meaningful.

So now I come to 2009 and Duncan Jones’ movie Moon. Here we have a man who grew up with the same movies as me (in fact, he’s only six days younger than I am) and not only wanted to make his own film but also capture the feel and atmosphere of these older flicks. The set design, the story, the special effects were all of the age; models instead of CGI, on-set camera trickery, an involving emotional plot, great design and visuals... this was it. This was the film I’d been waiting for since the mid-1980s, when I’d already exhausted repeated viewings of the old movies and was beginning to become desperate for something less filled with popcorn. The great thing is that I consider Moon to be far better than any science fiction movie that has come out in the last twenty years, and it was done as an independent movie on an incredibly low budget. If these guys can produce this kind of quality film with the resources and talent that they had then this also means that others can do it. Low budgets and cheaper technology means accessibility to filmmakers other than the ones employed by the big studios. That can only be a good thing and promises a great future for science fiction cinema.

So thank you, Duncan Jones and all those who helped you make this fantastic, insightful and emotionally charged film. You managed to create something that the Great Movie Machine has failed to do for the last 30 years.