If you like science fiction driven by ideas and characters’ psychology, go see Moon. Don’t watch the preview first, don’t read any reviews, don’t even read the rest of this post following this paragraph. Just go see it. You may not like all the ideas in the movie, but then at least there’s something to positively dislike, a big step up from today’s typical, mindless “action” film. I’ll be stunned if Sam Rockwell doesn’t get major awards for his fine acting. I only wish I hadn’t watched the preview first, as it gives away the central story arch. My comments that follow, then, are mainly directed at those who have already seen the movie and want to evaluate it more deeply.
There’s nothing truly original with the story. In its premise it reminds me a lot of Blade Runner (which already gives the game away to those who have seen that film). Isolation in space, cloning — these are the staples of science fiction. So what I like about the movie is the skill in which these traditional motifs are carried off.
This is a film that, despite its dark and morally troubling subject matter, keeps a bright spirit, at least ultimately. I feared it would descend to psychosis and to the character’s detachment from reality.
What I don’t like about the film is its anti-industrial bias. Indeed, the entire premise of the story is ridiculous.
So here it goes (again, you shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t seen the movie and may wish to do so). The background for the story is that a large corporation that produces energy on the moon clones a guy to service the station. The clone lives for around three years and then is incinerated, at which time a new clone takes his place, oblivious to what’s going on.
The back story is just stupid. Here we have a company responsible for generating 70 percent of the Earth’s energy, yet it can’t afford to send a regular crew up to man the station? Moreover, we’re supposed to believe that an intricate system of cloning is less costly to create and maintain than just sending up regular people for reasonable stints, presumably in pairs or teams? As the movie reveals, rocket technology has advanced considerably and must be regularly used to transport physical goods. Beyond that, as the movie makes clear, the cloning system can break down, so the company must also pay a regular crew to visit the station to solve related problems. That’s supposed to save costs?
But of course that is only the minor issue. The main issue is that the company creates new people and then systematically violates their rights. They are essentially slaves. The company’s behavior is wrong, and it is contrary to the principles of individual rights on which capitalism is based. So the government’s legitimate responsibility would be to stop the rights violations.
And we’re supposed to believe that a company could keep such a thing hidden for many years? Wouldn’t anyone ask any questions about how all that energy is produced? In the end the company is exposed. In the real world, if any remnant of justice remained, everybody involved in the criminal side of the operation would then go to jail for a very long time. While obviously people like Madoff demonstrate that some people engage in criminal behavior for short-term financial gain, such behavior is severely self-destructive and unsustainable.
(A related economic issue is that no company would likely maintain such a large market share over time without political privilege. With property rights protected for homesteaders, and given diseconomies of scale, I’d expect to see a number of production companies. We do not know the political nature of the energy production in the film.)
The irony of the movie is that the new Evil Corporation is the “greenest” corporation ever to exist. It has accomplished what many environmentalists claim to desire. The entire premise driving enviro-socialism is the old Marxist canard that profit-seeking business people are inherently corrupt. As the movie illustrates, this prejudice does not dissipate merely because the business produces politically-correct goods. (Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to see cost-effective, off-world energy production within my lifetime, though I don’t see that as a feasible alternative to Earth-bound energy into the indefinite future.)
But many writers in their laziness pull out the Marx card any time they need to generate some malignant force. Blame it on the evil businessman. Why let the resulting artistic idiocy get in the way?