Monday, December 12, 2011

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

I'm told I'm kind of a buzzkill moviegoing partner for the enjoyment of most movies:  I get infuriorated by trope characters and stupid science and most especially by plots that fall apart under close examination, a problem that is pretty common in many mainstream movies and is in fact kind of the point of many of them.

Take, for instance, Moon,  which I watched with SigFig on Friday.  It's an engaging science fiction movie with a compelling enough plot and an interesting enough premise, so it's a good story and worthwhile if you like science fiction movies.  I didn't mind passing my Friday night watching it.

Sam Bell is the lone human inhabitant of a mining operation on the moon for a company called Lunar Enterprises.  What they mine provides some kind of clean energy back home.  He's at the end of a three year contract and getting ready to finally go home and see his wife and young daughter again--and a good thing too, because after three years of isolation he's starting to get a little frayed around the edges.   However, he soon discovers that Lunar Enterprises has been lying to him, and that in fact there's a pretty intense and heartbreaking conspiracy going on that touches on some classic ethical questions of the use of science and threatens Sam's ability to ever go home and see his family again. 

I won't give away what's going on, but I will comment that although interesting, this conspiracy doesn't really make any business sense for a large company.  It's not clear that what they are doing actually saves them money and seems like a lot more trouble than just sending the poor guy home and training a replacement. It doesn't make sense for a company to be Evil Just Because, yet that's what seems to be happening here.  And the whole thing really of falls apart when you start to wonder:  if robots are so evolved as to be able to imitate human emotions and understanding as perfectly as Sam's robot assistant does, why send a human to the moon at all?  Why not just have robots do it?  And if you are going to send a human, why would you send only one man for three years?  Obviously that man would have a psychological breakdown if spending so much time alone, and obviously that wouldn't be very good for his productivity.  If there's a risk for him to be injured up there and it's such a pain to deal with that, it makes sense to send a team of people to look out for each other.

Really, it's fine, and just trying to tell an interesting story.  See what I mean about movie enjoyment buzzkill? 

This movie is also kind of interesting to watch from a masculist perspective, as it examines the concept of men in particular being infinitely expendable.

Moon left most of the physics and science intentionally vague, so there's not much to dissect on that front.   However, if you're like me and like science fiction movies and especially like analyzing them, you ought to check out this diverting site: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.

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