Moon – Solar System week

In honor of my father-in-law, a retired professor of astronomy, this week we will spend exploring our solar system in the movies. Today we will feature the moon. The simply titled Moon is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Moon (2009) – Rated R for language.

“As he nears the end of a lonely three-year stint on the moon base Sarang, astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) begins to hear and see strange things. It is not long before Sam suspects that his employer — the conglomerate LUNAR — has other plans for him. Featuring Kevin Spacey as the voice of a robot, this sci-fi thriller also stars Matt Berry and Kaya Scodelario. The film was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. “

This is the first feature for writer/director Duncan Jones. His name hides the fact that he is the son of rock star David Bowie (Yes he is Zowie Bowie!).

There is precious little violence and sex in the film. Because of this, it is to the credit of Jones and fellow writer Nathan Parker that the dialogue is not toned down to specifically receive a box office friendly PG-13 rating. They allow profanity to be where there would normally be profanity.

Duncan Jones does a wonderful job of directing. He keeps the special effects to a bare minimum thus not distracting from the story. He is a great storyteller. In other hands Moon would have had *TADA* reveals. Here it is more of slowly dawning realizations than surprises.

This is basically a two-man show. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a very lonely miner on the dark side of the moon. He has to carry the whole film on his shoulders and does so quite well. Often his roles simply require him to mug and smirk (which he can do easily). Thankfully this role really requires him to show his acting chops.

Our other main character is GERTY, the base computer. GERTY is very clearly modeled after HAL from 2001 though GERTY is far more complex and better realized. GERTY is voiced by the always wonderful Kevin Spacey. They give GERTY a variable Smileyface face.

Last year we had a bonanza of Science Fiction movies. J.J. Abrams did a marvelous job of re-imagining the Star Trek universe. Peter Jackson helped fund a big-screen adaptation of the Alive in Joburg short by Neill Blomkamp. The result was the apartheid parable District 9.

We also had Avatar. While Avatar was certainly the 800-lb gorilla, offering a unique experience with incredible special effects, I actually found it to be the worst James Cameron film I have ever seen – and I watched Piranha II: The Spawning!

In point of fact Moon and Avatar are almost polar opposites. Avatar is all flash and no substance, Moon is all substance and no flash. Avatar had wooden pretty boy Sam Worthington and Moon has the surprisingly versatile Sam Rockwell. the dialogue in Moon is natural and well thought-out – the dialogue in Avatar is downright embarrassing.

Moon is slow-moving but yields a rich reward. I highly recommend this movie that unfortunately passed under the radar last year. It is that rarity these days – intelligent science fiction.

People Watch: Matt Berry has a tiny part as Overmeyers. He is more familiar to British TV audiences as Douglas on The IT Crowd.