Over the Moon
Every worker on Moon’s lunar base is treated identically. They wake up. A robot tells them of an accident. Soon, they begin a structured daily regimen, all to power Earth with clean energy.
It’s corporately run, of course. Someone – a rich someone, surely – managed to privately claim ownership of lunar soil, mine it, then sell the resulting energy to Earth’s citizens. There’s only one employee, Sam (Sam Rockwell), who dutifully performs his work and is praised by company overlords.
All of Sam’s existence is a fabrication.
Made at the tail end of Bush Jr.’s administration, it’s telling Moon is a story of energy consequences, lies, deception, and inhuman treatment. Moon doesn’t speak of war, although the subtext is there. The final line is that of a man-on-the-street interview rejecting the truth, predictive of contemporary gaslighting and Orwellian themes. With consequences out of sight, whatever keeps the lights on and gas prices low sufficed. A human toll mattered not.
Post 9/11, the new normal was to again racially or religiously lump people in groups. Residual anger bred hate. Moon breaks that down through a story of clones, all the same person, but with radically different personalities. One is an alpha male, the other a pacifist. While the alpha punches a speed bag, the other spritzes water on plants and carves miniature people. It’s a startling use of sci-fi, depicting how corporate America views its employees as one rather than individuals.
Moon creates two people from one, credit to Rockwell’s dazzling performance. So sure he’s doing the right thing, so sure he’ll return home, Sam never questions what he’s asked to do. A soldier, headed toward war, never asking whether the action carries ramifications.
Sam learns the truth – exploitation and the dehumanization on a harrowing scale, all in a hunt for greater profit. At the core, a broken family; they too were lied to undoubtedly. In the end, according to a news broadcast, corporate share prices fall (and only 33% despite the egregious violations).
While Moon’s entire world takes place in a small, even inconsequential section of space, that’s the story: not the human desperation, but the economic impact. There’s little interest in the person, just the dollars. The person is called a liar, a fake, the corporation merely flawed because they kept iPad’s charging on Earth. Moon’s alarming vision is utterly realist in-between the future fantasy. Moon’s 10th anniversary brings this film to a place among the headiest genre contemporaries.
A chunky grain structure from a Super35 source represents Moon accurately. What that means for 4K UHD is limited imagery. Over the Blu-ray, compression on UHD improves to better replicate that grain and softer-than-usual cinematography. While fine detail doesn’t show any substantial improvement, the intended look is more transparent.
More importantly, the HDR pass matters greatly to Moon. Capturing the sterility of the interiors, light blooms and clips, HDR adding an intensity lost on the prior generation format. Outside, that only increases. By adding range, the lack of atmosphere lets in blinding sunlight, reflecting off metal en masse. In turn, shadows gain in weight and richness, matching the pure black of space on the lunar surface.
The aesthetic is that of gray and blue, removed from any primary highlights. Flesh tones look sickly, which is totally appropriate. Only the computer AI assisting Sam provides some genuine color, a rich blue LCD screen with various yellow smiley faces.
Taken into Dolby Atmos, this is stellar audio mixing in terms of establishing atmosphere. Ambiance runs constantly, even in downtime and silence. Something is always running and filling space. The soundtrack does too.
This wide soundstage carefully places effects, including a jump rope routine heard in the rear right and a flung ping-pong ball sent into the rear left. Overheads capture rocks pelting lunar rovers, pinging metal with a complete shower of stone. For a small film, Sony’s Atmos track brings things up to a new scale.
While LFE isn’t dominating, it’s pronounced enough to beef up an accident and a landing pod’s engines. This weight likewise adds scale, if reserved.
On the UHD, director Duncan Jones speaks in a Skype interview, looking back on the project for nine minutes. Two new deleted scenes (one of them possibly an extended ending?) run a minute and a half, while the most fascinating footage comes under Performance Elements. These four minutes show Rockwell in a key scene, acting out both parts, showing his masterful performance. A handful of fan art posters earn their spot too.
The Blu-ray included remains the same as before, with two commentaries and 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.
Duncan Jones’ Moon is highlighted by Sam Rockwell’s performance and a dazzling sci-fi story that continues to work in today’s climate.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 31 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:
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