We are all Castaways:
Review of the film Moon

2:12 PM

In the last couple of years lots of big blockbuster movies came out that were set in space: Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian. I don't mean to be controversial, but as a fan of realistic sci-fi movies, I thought these movies were all flash and little substance. Even Interstellar, which I liked, was a bit hard to sit through.

As this trend seems to be alive and well (with Passengers, the Independence Day sequel and the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises) I thought we could talk about one underrated sci-fi that I love: Moon.

Moon was directed by Duncan Jones and stars Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey (as the voice of GERTY, the Artificial Intelligence who lives with Sam in the moon’s space station).

As you can tell from the trailer, Sam is an engineer working by himself on a space station. Except, unlike Matt Damon's character in The Martian or George Clooney's character in Gravity, we actually sympathize with Sam because he looks and sounds like a real person; not a charming wise guy with instant answers to every single problem. No, Sam is a jaded, raggedy guy who wants nothing more than to come back to Earth to his wife and daughter.

The problem is that two weeks before his return date, he suffers an accident and ends up finding another guy who looks just like him. Is he inevitably losing his mind after three years of isolation or is there something else going on? Can he trust the AI GERTY and his polite passive-aggressiveness or the dismissive people from his company (heads up fans of The IT Crowd: two great cameos here)

Again, sci-fi movies that try to look and feel realistic are the best to me (see Primer and Puzzlehead, also underrated gems). Moon accomplishes that and more. Sam Rockwell is amazing, I need to see more of his movies.

I don't want to spoil too much, but the cherry on the cake: the last lines of the movie so accurately describe the current zeitgest, it's as if the movie hasn't aged a bit.

Now, let's overanalyse this, shall we?

After watching the movie, I went to IMDB and found this very interesting thread about the saddest, most moving scene in the movie, when Sam, in tears, says "I want to go home".

That scene resonates with viewers because the desire to leave an inhospitable place and come back to a loving home is universal. From Odysseus to Mad Max we are all trying to return home, at least in one point in our lives.

The thread on IMDB (which was an old one so I assume it got deleted at this point, unfortunately) became very depressing as one commenter pointed out that the saddest thing is not being stuck on a foreign, hostile land alone but to never being able to come back home, because you have no home. The commenter pointed out that because Earth as a whole is this awful place filled with wars, hate, poverty and misery it is impossible to ever feel at home.

That's exactly what Moon gets right: (spoilers) it shows that coming back to Earth isn't coming back home; it is not an end to loneliness and isolation, but an introduction to hate and ignorance. 

It touches into a feeling of alienation that is so present nowadays. You turn on the news and you see people everywhere feeling misunderstood, unrepresented, disenfranchised. Communication, understanding and finding common ground seems, if not impossible, a Quixotean task. It's easy to feel discouraged and adopting this worldview that we are all alone and there's no place we can call home.

Even though I don't fully agree with this worldview, I think it is one step towards enlightenment. It sounds depressing, but dissatisfaction with the status quo, might be a step towards realizing we are not supposed to feel as if we belonged anyways.

It's like what C. S. Lewis said about how all the things we love about our world (family, friends, our hobbies, our favorite books) that all these things are connected by "secret thread", they are all longings not for this world but for God1

Here, we would have to turn to another character lost in an inhospitable place: Robinson Crusoe. All these characters, Robinson Crusoe, Sam and Matt Damon's character in The Martian are all castaways. All these stories seem to be portraying the same conflict: not only man x hostile environment, or man x man/machine but man x himself.

These stories show characters looking around and realizing they have no control over their environment or their fellow men. (Tangent: this is what I disliked about The Martian, how the main character acts as if he had control over everything and instead of being punished by his hubris, he gets rewarded by it) 

All three characters spend their stories trying to find ways to come back home but only one prays. Only Robinson Crusoe realizes that the only thing we have control over is ourselves. He is the only one who realizes that peace of mind can only be found within, not without.

What are your favorite sci-fi movies, what do you love about them?

Massive thanks to my sister for recommending this film to me. Peters Sisters for the win.

1 Here's the full C. S. Lewis quote which is beautiful but too big for me to add here. It's from the book The Problem of Pain.

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