Monday (3/1/10) 9:03am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.
Movies: Moon [spoilers]
You see? *This* is science fiction. "Thunder-smurfs get burned out of Ferngully"
is a solid adventure serial with cute fantasy elements grafted on, but it is not science fiction. Moon
is science fiction, where you start with a counterfactual idea and follow it where it goes, whether that leads to pretty explosions or not.
I feel petty, using Moon
as an excuse to beat on Avatar
. It also feels like "Ooh, look at me, I'm cool because I'm making fun of the popular stuff." That said, I'm going to keep doing this.
I mean, Moon
provides a stark reminder that these days, genre movies have everything in common with the old thrilling adventure serials and virtually nothing in common with (say)
the short stories from John W. Campbell's magazines. Moon
is a deliberate throwback, a quiet, thinky movie that was designed to stand alongside sci-fi films from forty years ago -- 2001
being the most obvious reference point.
Modern sci-fi movies go for extravagance for maximum budget. This one tried to squeeze as much movie as possible out of five million dollars. They used model shots instead of CGI. They shot on a single set with a one-man cast.
And it feels like a classic science-fiction story because the whole thing hinges on an idea -- not a new filmmaking technique, not a thrilling quest for a magic whatsit, just an idea. A "What if?" So: what if a company used a series of disposable clones to man a mining operation?
The movie doesn't do anything groundbreaking with this -- it just follows the standard movie template very effectively. Ten minutes in, Sam notices the first signs of something going wrong. Then the story ratchets up the weirdness and the danger, with clone #2 showing up, with clone #1 falling to pieces, and with the 'rescue team' planning to kill off both of them. Soon you're in act three, with a ticking clock counting down to the rescue-team arrival, and the Sams trying to jury-rig a solution that will let one of them go home.
Simple, simple, simple. But then, the rules of Go are simple. Doesn't make it easy.
My only complaint is that there were a few stretches where I had sorted out the next plot point before the characters did. For instance: "Ah, right. They are the latest clones in a long series of clones." And then, no matter how good the next scene is, I'm impatiently waiting for the penny to drop for one of the Sams.
So why was I so busy ragging on Avatar
at the start of this section? I don't think it was *entirely* a pathetic attempt to prove to people that I have geek credentials. I think it's mostly because of EscapePod. Every week they do a science-fiction story on that podcast, and most weeks that story has some brain-melting idea at its core. What if everybody in the world stopped aging? What if superheroes formed a union? What if the whole world saw the night sky for the first time in millennia?
It is a glorious literary world, and I never get to see it on film. It's rare to see a sci-fi movie with a "What if?" in it -- so rare that most people don't even think that "what if?" is what sci-fi is about. So when I see a movie like Moon
, a movie that evokes those stories... it makes me feel cheated that the rest of sci-fi is so cheap and stupid by comparison.(P.S. I only just now got the joke about "The One and Only". At the time, I just thought it was a hilariously/inappropriately upbeat song to start the day with, like "I Got You Babe" in Groundhog Day. I am slow.)
For next time: I'm just about done watching another batch of Glee
episodes, I'm almost through The Checklist Manifesto
, and I should be finished with Perfecting Sound Forever
in another week or so. After forgetting to update my netflix queue for a while, I wound up with a copy of Silver City
. I suppose I'll watch that, though I have no idea why I even queued it in the first place.
contemplative · Music: