Solitary life is boring, so establishing it in film is tough. You need to show the character’s bored, losing interest in their work, yet not bore the audience. Moon does this correctly. It introduces the audience to Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) who has spent nearly three years on an isolated moon base gathering rocks to provide Earth with its energy.
He builds models, talks to plants, and interacts with a robot named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Messages are delivered to him from Earth, from his wife anticipating his return home, and from the corporation that is sponsoring all of this. The viewer does not share the boredom; this is valuable, purposeful information. The sterile surrounding lets the audience share in the isolation, an important distinction.
As it turns out after an accident, Sam is not alone. He lives on this moon base unbeknownst to him… with himself. As is revealed early, Sam is a clone, leading to distinct personalities between Sam #5 and Sam #6. This puts pressure on Rockwell as an actor to produce drastically different, varied characters, even if they are the same.
Distracting, Sam #5, the one who crashed, takes to the idea of cloning rather easily, albeit through some denial. He may initially share in the shock of seeing himself, even playing ping-pong against his other half, yet casually approaches the situation as if it were normal. The audience is baffled and confused, previously able to relate to Sam’s isolation, now unable to figure out why this is normal.
It is a flaw in Moon, but one the scripting and direction are able to recover from. This tale of corporate greed turns into a tale of what it means to be human, littered with fantastic visual effects (including great miniatures). The lunar surface looks real, a small haze generated by the sun’s rays as they ping off the metal objects.
Moon doesn’t spend much time on the science. Opening narration, a commercial actually, explains why the moon base exists quickly as if this were all standard in the future. It doesn’t need delve into extensive detail. In its visuals and through its dialogue, the sci-fi world of Moon seems logical and interesting.
Refreshing too is GERTY, who takes a path that is the complete opposite of the expectation, removing the doubts that this will become a 2001 knock-off. Moon is anything but; simply a vivid, appropriately flat piece of fiction that hooks the viewer quickly and involves them in Sam’s complex, meaningful plight. That said, whenever we can meet out own clones, hopefully it is as easy as it is portrayed here.
Sony’s AVC encode for Moon handles a fine level of grain surprisingly well, losing only when certain noisy effects shots add additional objects to handle. These shots are noticeable at 56:33 and 1:03:58, the latter on the lunar surface itself. Generally, the miniaturized moon looks superb. Individual grains of dirt are clearly defined and visible. The exterior of the station itself contains numerous small details, and long shots of the moon look fantastic down to each crater.
Details on the station in close (or inside) are limited by design only. The exterior rust on a door early at 3:32 is exceptional, but the sets are supposed to be white and flat. Everything becomes a smooth surface with no discernable texture elsewhere. In close, facial texture on Sam can be exceptional, even reference in a few scenes. At any range, that same texture is lost, leaving the image rather flat, hardly aided by the likely intentional weak black levels.
Bright whites are outstandingly pure, rarely blown out except when under the stress of the sun itself. Colors are never vibrant or even saturated. Sam’s flesh tones are consistently pale, logical considering his situation. A bright yellow jumpsuit’s impact is diminished, offering almost no color depth to speak of. The dimmed blues of computer screens and lightly saturated greens of plants keep the palette in check.
Scenes outdoors, cloaked with an intense glowing light, show no signs of banding or artifacting errors. The opening scene, loaded with stock footage, looks as expected, with some drastic interlacing in the source. That cannot be held against the transfer of course.
Isolation should mean limited audio to discuss, yet Moon has some surprises. Engines deliver a satisfying rumble, from the harvesters to the lunar ships themselves. The crash that spurs the clones to realize who they are is aggressive if brief. Crunching metal creates an immersive surround effect if only for a few seconds.
Most of the soundtrack cues are classical, yet in their uncompressed glory, are nothing short of flawless. A piano piece late (1:26:20) is just spectacular in its clarity and fullness. The surround bleed is aggressive as well.
Eventually, a tower is destroyed, and again this DTS-HD effort shines as creaking, stressed metal offers wonderfully clarity and fidelity. An appropriate rumble helps on the low-end. An alarm occasionally sounds inside the facility, offering a small bit of immersion in an otherwise flat, quiet environment.
Extras kick off with two commentaries, writer/director Duncan Jones taking part in both. In the first, he is joined by director of photography Gary Shaw, concept designer Gavin Rothery, and production designer Tony Noble. For the second, producer Stuart Fenegan lends a hand.
A short film, also directed by Jones called Whistle is included. A decent making-of falls prey to the usual promotional babble, but does offer some great behind-the-scenes footage. Creating the Visual effects is a fine breakdown, including split screens on how numerous shots were accomplished. Two Q & A sessions, one at Sundance and another at a Science Center run a bit over 30-minutes combined. Trailers and generic BD-Live support are left.