the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes
Going into this movie, I was rather uncertain of what to expect from Ridley Scott’s new, big-budget, sci-fi film. The reviews I have seen have been completely mixed, some of whom where astounded by its brilliance and some seemed almost devastated with disappointment. The mass marketing and clever virals, particularly one of Michael Fassbender’s David, only heightened my expectations of the movie, which I have anticipated more than any other in 2012.
I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great film, but more than anything, was a totally encapsulating viewing experience, particularly when watching in 3D Imax, which I would thoroughly recommend. The film is set 3 decades prior to the adventures of Ellen Ripley, in 2093, and despite all the original questions of this film’s relation to Alien it is clear from the very beginning, and far clearer at the very end, that this is a prequel. The range of characters is somewhat similar to those who have previously battled the xenomorphs, particularly the use of another android, David, and Noomi Rapace’s turn as another strong-willed heroine, Scott reflecting some aspects of Weaver’s iconic Ripley. As this team of adventurers embark on a mission to find the origins of the human race they soon find themselves unprepared for what is waiting for them. The opening scene, before our space invaders even appear, is one that immediately shows that Scott is once again willing to take huge risks and obliterate boundaries. It is a visual masterclass, great open shots of harsh, visceral landscapes which are somehow undermined by Scott’s centrepiece, filling the viewer’s mind with question upon question, an alien creature for definite, but not exactly what we had been expecting. After the film finished, I found myself questioning the purpose of this scene, because this alien’s actions were continuously ambiguous, however the impact of this scene is nonetheless magnificent. The 17 man crew’s mission is to find the meaning behind numerous connected etchings from all periods of civilization, headed by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), but leads them to a situation compulsory within the Alien franchise, ambling nervously through the labyrinthine surroundings of this far-off planet. As the group becomes periodically smaller and smaller, the plot constantly intensifies, twisting and turning effortlessly until the very end.
The sensationalist nature of the movie is not merely in its breathtaking cinematography, but also through the bold performances. Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace are perfectly cast, contrasting greatly between Rapace’s steely and determined Shaw and Theron’s sharp, glacial Meredith Vickers. The standout performance, however, is Fassbender’s understated presence as the android David, proving that it isn’t a coincidence that many of the best films of the last couple of years seem to contain his intense performances.
This a utterly spectacular film, yet with a prequel it is impossible to look at it without comparing it to Scott’s previous editions. It is from this perspective that it becomes clear that this movie is still slightly flawed. Rapace, although very good, does not quite reach the legendary status of Sigourney Weaver in the role of Ripley, who is clearly the core of the original films. Alien is more tense and chilling, whereas Aliens provides a rough-and-tumble approach, and although trying to recreate both chilling spectacles and gritty action, Scott has reached a halfway-house, making something more coherent to the expectations of a good, 21st century blockbuster. The use of 3D highlights the visual splendour of the film and the huge grandiose of the special effects, yet this in many ways overshadows parts of the film. This is too active, particularly when compared the stillness which made Alien so frightening. My final verdict is that this a film that can be enjoyed for its spectacular and bold visuals, its perfected performances and clever narrative, however it falls for the same trick as most prequels, in fulfilling the formula as its predecessors, rather than capturing what it was that made Alien original. A great film, but it is best judged as a separate modern film, rather than the prequel it obviously is.
Usually in Sci-Fi films, whether it be J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Star Wars or Avatar, outer-space looks like a hive of activity, exoticism and extremities. This high-octane grandiose is completely incomparable to the bleak claustrophobia which Moon seems to brilliantly capture, becoming an emotional spectacle rather than a lavish, big-budget blockbuster. Not only is this far more minimalistic than the average Sci-Fi film, but equally it is at times a dark, one-person drama constantly questioning humanity within the complex futuristic scenario, presenting an image of both space and Earth that is harrowing and wretched.
Duncan Jones (offspring of David Bowie) has used a minimal $5 million budget in creating his first feature, and I think that this is incredibly beneficial to the tone of the film. After an introductory advertisement to explain to the audience Earth’s fuel problems and how these have subsequently been solved through the conversion of fuel through an omnipresent source within lunar soil, we meet Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). Indeed, we see him in numerous situations, in numerous different examples of his loneliness, jogging, looking after his plants etc., from the first instance Jones has therefore emphasized how remote his existence on the moon has become. He is an extractor of this resource working for the company advertised, but Jones shows this as space-age capitalism, and the exploitation of Sam questions the benefits which would be gained by human inhabitance in outer space. Although Bell is remote in the greatest sense, he does have a companion called Gerty, a robot with the lucid, sardonic tone of Kevin Spacey. Gerty is however aware of the plight which has occurred and will happen to Sam Bell, and without giving too much away, highlights the sad reality of the situation as humans become as valuable, and replaceable, as machines.
Moon is an example of brilliance from many perspectives. Duncan Jones has built a plot which stands it out from any big-budget Starship Troopers schmulz and achieves a feat rarely seen in the science fiction genre; getting the audience emotionally involved within the story, but also gaining an attachment to Bell. Much of this is down to Rockwell’s brilliant performance, successfully pulling off the incredible difficulty of being a one-person cast. For all its brilliance though, the film doesn’t quite gain an inherent depth, atmospherically and philosophically, which may have been limited by its small budget and cold, utilitarian message. All in all, I highly recommend Moon, partly because it’s unlike any other film I’ve seen and this peculiarity left me more intrigued than I would have ever expected from a Sci-Fi film, if not astounded.