RogerBW's Blog

Moon 21 December 2023

2009 science fiction, dir. Duncan Jones, Sam Rockwell: IMDb / allmovie. Sam's coming to the end of his three-year shift supervising helium-3 mining robots on the moon…

Indeed, it's just one more week to retirement when things start to go wrong. A stuck rover leads to an accident… then Sam wakes up, feeling a bit woozy but still functional. Then he goes out to the scene of the accident…

Probably you've heard about the big plot twist; I'm glad to say that the film doesn't rely on you not knowing. However, I'm not going to go into spoilery detail. Let's just say that, after various people described the film as hard science fiction, I found myself disappointed; yes, the setup has to be the way it is so that Sam's story can go the way it does, but a hard SF story would try to convince me that this makes economic or technical sense, that the magnetic launcher sending helium-3 to Earth should provide a means of transport survivable by a human in a space suit, that the use of a rescue team wouldn't wipe out all the profits from what's been done, that preventing a live link to Earth would be done with a great big jammer array rather than simply telling the communications relay to close off that channel. But then I realised that this is Hollywood's version of hard SF: nothing goes pew pew kaboom.

Indeed, the film clearly owes a lot of its visual grammar to Silent Running and parts of Alien: the bright friendly environment that's nonetheless been built just slightly on the cheap, and is getting grubby after a few years of use. There are pleasing small details like the rail-mobile components of the base's AI: what are clearly emergency pressure doors have special accomodations to let the robot parts move across the hatch coaming.

As a personal story with soft SF trappings to set it up, I enjoyed it; I just had to sit on the part of me that wanted the tech and the setup to make sense as well. It wouldn't have been so very hard.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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