Good science fiction movies seem to be a dying art, or at least an art that is practiced and followed through to production and released rarely. The last good science fiction movie of substance and depth that I can remember enjoying was Sunshine (also space and future episodes of Doctor Who), though it kind of devolved at the end to classics action movie of story and less substance. I just finished watching Moon and while I haven’t let my mind necessarily fully critique it yet, it feels like a movie that is both good and important when viewed. As I mentioned: a movie of substance.
Moon explores the idea . . . if you don’t want to be spoiled, you should stop reading now and watch the movie, then come back to this post . . . of mining the moon for fusion. A man, Sam Bell, is on a three-year mission to ensure the harvesters continue harvesting, kept company by a HALesque robot. It becomes clear that Sam Bell has a lifespan of three years, where at the end he essentially falls apart and rots, looking as if he were suffering from severe radiation poisoning. He’s supposed to enter the stasis tube for cryogenic freezing in preparation for being taken back to Earth, except the tube actually incinerates him. Then a Sam Bell clone is brought out storage and brought to life to begin another three-year cycle.
Except the Sam Bell we know suffers an accident, and a clone is brought to life who then discovers his body and brings him back to the station. Reality unfolds and the hidden room of clones, the clone room if you will, is discovered. As the first Sam dies of what is essentially old age for a clone — three years — and is placed back in the ship so that the rescue ship suspects nothing, the other Sam Bell clone is launched to Earth to bring the full realization of what’s been going on to light.
The most poignant moment of the movie, I felt, was when Sam drove in one of the lunar vehicles beyond the jamming devices and was able to contact his home in hopes of seeing his wife and child and being able to have a live feed with them for the first time. He discovers a fifteen year old girl who is the young daughter who hadn’t been born when he left for the moon, and his wife who he’s been dreaming about for years, has been dead for years. His daughter on the screen then calls for her dad and Sam severs the connection before we see what is presumably the real Sam Bell who has made it back to Earth after the original three-year cycle. Our Sam returns to the station and makes the robot, GERTY, confess to him of his being a clone with implanted memories, thoughts, and emotions.
In this snapshot moment, so much is encapsulated. It brings to light all the thoughts, risks, and fears of cloning. What is it to be real? To exist? Perhaps, to have a soul? Here we have a character who seems like a completely real person in every way, and then is revealed to be a clone of an original who lives a normal life back on Earth. But does that make this clone anything less of a real person? Are we little more than a collection of emotional memories? If we take away the memories and thoughts, what’s left? Are we real? Do we exist? GERTY even refers to the clones as “programmed,” and Sam is quick to clarify that their humans.
I don’t mean to get so dower and pessimistically contemplative, but I love it when art does this, whether it’s movies, stories, or pieces of artwork. Watching a movie like Moon feels like reading classics, hard science fiction, like Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke.
It’s a story that is much more than just a story, that reaches beyond the page (or the screen, or canvas) and makes you think . . . makes you think about life, reality, and yourself, and what possible meaning there is behind it. The big WHY.