“Moon,” starring Sam Rockwell, world-premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to great acclaim. Sony Classics will release the film in late June.
I have always been a fan of science fiction films. In my mind, the golden age of SF cinema was the 1970s, early 1980s, when films like Silent Running, Alien, Blade Runner and Outland told human stories in future environments. I've always wanted to make a film that felt like it could fit into that canon.
There are unquestionably less of those kinds of sci-fi films these days. I don't know why. I have a theory though: I think over the last couple of decades filmmakers have allowed themselves to become a bit embarrassed by SF's philosophical side. It's OK to “geek out” at the cool effects and “oooh” and “ahh” at amazing vistas, but we're never supposed to take it too seriously. We've allowed ourselves to be convinced that SF should be frivolous, for teenage boys. We're told that the old films, the Outlands and Silent Runnings, were too plaintive, too whiney.
I think that's ridiculous. People who appreciate science fiction want the best for the world, but they understand that there is an education to be had by investigating the worst of what might happen. That's why Blade Runner was so brilliant; it used the future to make us look at basic human qualities from a fresh perspective. Empathy. Humanity. How do you define these things? I wanted to address those questions.
Quite a few years ago I read Entering Space by the renowned astronaut engineer, Robert Zubrin. Zubrin put forward a wholly scientific and engaging case for why and how humanity should be colonizing our solar system. It was a nuts-and-bolts approach to space exploration, and took into account the fiscal appetites that would make space colonization attractive in our capitalist world. One of the first steps recommended was to set up a “shake-and-bake” Helium-3 mining facility on the moon to extract fuel for fusion-powered generators.
The book made a real impression on me. I couldn't help thinking that that first step into space habitation, a step that would be made for profit rather than purely scientific reasons, was a fascinating conflict of interests. Companies by their very nature would seek to extract the maximum amount of raw materials from any endeavor, for a minimum outlay of costs. That's just good business. But without any locals, without human rights groups or oversight to keep an eye on things, what might a company try to get away with? What might even the most benign, “green” corporation be willing to do? What would they do to a lone, blue-collar caretaker on a base on the far side of the Moon?
These are some of the basic ideas that informed the science fiction setting of MOON, but this belies the root of the film; its human element. MOON is about alienation; it's about how we anthropomorphize technology; it's about the paranoia that strikes you when you are in a long distance relationship; and it's about learning to accept yourself. A lot to take on for a little indie film, but maybe that was the best place to try. It is “only science fiction” after all.