Moon the debut directorial effort of Duncan Jones was released to much praise and acclaim in 2009. I knew the film captured the tone of other space movies such as 2001 and Solaris, however I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Ultimately I didn’t really like Moon very much, although it was hard to say exactly why. Or at least it isn’t hard to say why but my criticisms of the movie shouldn’t bring it down as much as it does in my mind.
The movie does a very good job of establishing the atmosphere and situation of the protagonist…however the whole film feels like a setup for something much grander. We ultimately find out that Sam is one of many clones, with imprinted memories. If one is damaged or dies there is a whole supply ready to be activated and take over. For such an interesting premise…I don’t feel Moon takes advantage of it. Questions of who we are….who are we if an exact duplicate exists…..to what extent do our memories define us….is death meaningless if we can be exactly replicated…all these things could be examined but they are not. Even The 6th Day did a better job of examining these things.
Instead after the reveal we have two Sam’s finding out more about their situation before deciding to send one back to earth. The audio at the end of the movie makes it clear that the clones were illegal and that the company is held liable for criminal activity. Which I suppose is a happy ending of sorts. Although I wonder why the choice was made to make cloning illegal…I would have thought by making it legal that it would have provided a greater opportunity to commentate on what humans are capable of and perhaps where we are heading. I enjoyed the movie I just think it too to long to setup, and that not enough was explored.
Source Code seemed a lot more interesting to me, with the previews reminding me strongly off 12 monkeys. It isn’t really a similar movie at all beyond the time travel aspect, given that it lacks the predestination aspect and takes place in an alternate reality. That is perhaps the most frustrating thing about Source Code, in that the technology is never explained. Aside from the weird name why can you relive a short period of someone’s life, but in an alternate reality? Why would it not be in this reality if memories were harnessed? What are the differences in the alternate time line? Anything?
I also thought the love story was odd given that he only talk to Christina for a maximum of 8 minutes at a time. He didn’t seem to go in less than 10 times, so that’s 80 minutes max, not even considering much of that time he is running around looking for a bomb. 80 minutes is enough to be attracted to someone, but not enough to want to risk everything to save someone, especially if you are a soldier and have a higher duty. The love story was dumb….but it’s the premise that I don’t get. You can relive someone’s life from an alternative universe that is similar enough that the information is useful in this one. Since what happened already happened you can’t change things, only interact.
The exposition in the movie made it seem like it was an advanced simulation, yet as we saw obviously the alternate time line can be affected. Was a new timeline created from Stevens actions? Infinite time lines? The movie doesn’t pay much attention to these details focusing on the love story and damsel in distress, which I think is a shame. Fleshing out the details of the source code would have provided for a richer universe and allowed examining the ramifications of playing around with another universe of people. Whatever. The movie was entertaining which is one of the most important things. I think it was a step up from Moon in terms of pacing and fleshing out the story, but I would like to see a little bit more of the premise explained in his future films.
One thing I found interesting is that Moon and Source Code seemed to have some themes in common. An external force putting the protagonist into a dire situation. The protagonist not realizing it straight away and having to discover their predicament. The protagonists being limited or feeble in some way and having to overcome that. What we are capable of doing to people and what we consider acceptable. In Moon we have clones which are considered expendable and efficient, so less than human. In Source Code we have a veteran being used essentially as a processor without his knowledge and later without consent, for the good of the people. I think these are interesting themes and I would like to see the director develop them further, rather than just have them as background commentary.