Friday, June 12, 2009

MOON (with and w/out spoilers)

This weekend's vodcast subject presented Katey and me with a problematic question.

How do you talk about Moon without spoilers?
A: Very carefully. And then you give up and bound across the moon's surface (spoilers) with a space suit on (i.e. ample warning about said spoilers... oh my mad skillz with analogies *snort*)

But if you can, see the movie first. Much to discuss. We might need to repost if Moon ever goes wide. It deserves to.

further reading:
Sci Fi Squad on writer/director Duncan Jones (Moon) five favorite science fiction films
Towleroad my short spoiler-free piece on Moon in case you missed it
Spout 10 Unhappy Astronauts in Movies
IFC's The Daily collects the reviews. And you'll definitely want to read a few after seeing the movie


Catherine said...



it was hard to find! :)

norm said...

Still no quality mic, eh? Love your site and YouTube blog but please upgrade your mic system. A $5 Radio Shack pzm would be better than the one on the camera you're using.

adelutza said...

Well Nate, I saw Moon at Sundance and I was really bored ... I might have to see it again after this vodcast because I didn't get at all what you are saying ; it's true that , being a volunteer and all I was very tired all the time and in more then one occasion I kind of had a power sleep during a movie but still...I remember the Q&A at the end of "An Education", somebody asked a question about the sex scene and I was like "what sex scene?" Must have dozed of ;-)


norm i turned the volume way up this time in editing. Hmmmm. not sure how the camera will work with a mic (its kind of all in one thing) wish i had a budget ;)

Alex F. said...

Looking forward to seeing this. I'm lucky that I live in Los Angeles. I checked and it's playing in half a dozen theaters in the area. Unfortunately seeing it tonight - it's out of the question, since I couldn't convince any friends to see a movie they've seen no promos for, starring a guy they never heard of. I'll probably end up seeing it alone, which I don't mind, but definitely won't venture out alone on a weekend night. Don't want to feel too loserish.

N, doesn't your camera already have a plug in for a mic?

Wayne B. said...

nice shirt


Alex... it's actually Katey's camera. we are upgrading stuff soon (editing software and stuff so maybe we'll get a mic too)

norm said...

If the camera has an mic input, then any simple mic plugged into that will improve the sound quality immensely. Not trying to be a whiny drag about it - I'd just love to hear what you guys are saying more clearly.

Ryan said...

great vodcast!

'Moon' sounds quite interesting.

and Catherine, with you all the way on that Almodovar poster. hmmm. we'll have to break into Nathaniel's apartment and snag it. does Monty scratch? :)

Carl said...


As with their vodcast, I warn all of you that this post will contain SPOILERS - skip reading it if you plan to see the film.

Not to go all nerdy on everyone, but I am an engineer by trade and a space buff by avocation, so I did not have some of the problems that others had with the content.

One sacrifice that had to be made on a $5M filming budget did take me out of the experience a bit - the 1/6 g field the moon exerts on objects changes significantly how masses respond to accelerating forces. Sam simply cannot move or walk around in his habitat the way he would on Earth, unless he wears a 400-kg lead suit. Take a peek at any stock moon landing footage on the Web and you'll see what I mean...people move slow so that their six-times-too-powerful muscles do not get them into momentum-driven situations they cannot stop or control. So Sam's 'natural' movement actually looks unnatural, if you get me.

That said, I agree with the assesment that the production team did a splendid job with what they had. I think the script was also solid, including the parts Nathaniel and Katey had problems with. In particular, the three-year term as a cover for the use of clones was reasonably well thought out. It is the ultimate corporate decision - automate absolutely everything you can, keep one person there with the adaptability to deal with the things that can't be automated. But, instead of using a "real" person that you have to train, ship up (and, worst of all, pay), you send up a couple hundred clones with memories and training that are downloadable to one just thawing out, and let him think he is done in three years. The real reason for the three-year limit, as opposed to five or more, is showing up today in clone research. Clones apparently do not carry the physiological robustness of their progenitors. The writers incorporate this in the screenplay...when Sam is playing through the old logs, many of his clone bretheren are showing signs of advanced decrepitude, as is our current Sam I. Three years may be the service life of clones before cellular breakdown kills them. So, at the end of their effective lives, they enter a chamber that, ostensibly, prepares them for their trip home. Instead, it incinerates them.

Lots of moral questions raised by this, which can make an entire discussion on its own (some of which is touched on in the newsreel voice-over at the end of the film). For my money, the science and engineering hang together better in this movie than in anything I have seen on screen since "2001" (to which this movie has been favorably compared). I'd love to hear and discuss that with any other fellow nerds perusing this thread (off-line, perhaps...this is, after all, still a cinematic blog.)

Carl said...


I caught up with "Moon" last week and saw your vodcast. I agree with most of what was said, and will discuss the rest below. For those of you out there who have not seen the film, do so if you appreciate science fiction that respects the science. I am an engineer by trade and a space-buff by avocation, and I can say that, with few exceptions (again, discussed below), the science and engineering in the film are the best I have seen since "2001". And the fiction addresses ideas and issues that would not be out of place in a Hugo-nominated story (no joke - this is a cinch bet for a nomination in the Hugo long-form category next year.)

Warning - beyond this point, there be SPOILERS. Do not continue reading this if you plan to see the movie.

There are only two substantive issue I have with the science, and the first may be insoluble with a $5M budget. The gravitational field on the surface of the moon is only about 1/6 g, which has a profound effect on movement. The human frame is over-powered six times what it needs to be to move itself and other objects on the moon. Consequently, people move very slowly to avoid momentum-related mishaps. Check out any moon landing archival footage on the Web to see what I mean. Unless Sam wears a 400-kilogram full-body lead suit, he must move much slower than he does to avoid having problems. For me, this made his 'natural' movement unnatural, if you get my drift.

Other little things - 'Helium-3' is actually Hydrogen-3, also known as tritium (and the other true scientific howler in the film...tritium is actually easier to "mine" from seawater than it would be from the surface of the moon - but that is, I suspect, getting really nit-picky.) And there is no technical reason for putting the base on Farside, so there is no real reason to bring it up that I could see.

I understand, I think, the problems with the film both of you seem to have. The reasons for deciding on clones over traditional manned operations made sense to me early on because of where the science is extrapolated to go. The corporate decision for clones is a sound one. First, automate absolutely every operation that you can. Then, put one adaptable person at the station to solve the unforeseeable problems that are bound to come up, as well as handle routine maintenance for which robotics is not suitable. However, instead of sending up someone you have to train, transport (and, heaven forbid, pay), ship up a couple hundred clones at one time, download their training and history as each is thawed out, and let each work a three year shift. The three-year limit is extrapolated from current state-of-the-art in cloning. It turns out that clones are not as robust as their progenitors. For an organism as complex as a human, three years or so may be all you get before cellular breakdown kills a clone. We see evidence of this in the film, when Sam checks the logs and sees the string of clones that preceded him, many of whom were suffering from variations on the sort of lethal systemic failures plaguing our Sam (also the likely cause of the hallucination that caused him to crash his rover). So, at the end of their tours, when clones enter the preparation chamber, instead of being prepped for a trip home, they are incinerated.

I did not get the "truncated" feeling you mentioned, possibly because I was more willing to "fill in the blanks" on the implications of cloning as the movie went along than a general audience would, because of how much fiction I have read related to these themes. Lots of moral and social questions here, some of which are hinted at when we listen to the newsreel voice-over you mentioned. I'd love to discuss them, but I suspect it would need to be off-line (this is, after all, a cinematic blog.)

Carl said...


Sorry - this is the first time I have encountered screening on your blog. If you use one of my posts, then please use the second. Thanks.