Sunday, January 24, 2010

Film Review: Moon

Moon (2009), by Duncan Jones, is a very complete film. It's not exactly the most thrilling, entertaining, or even thought-provoking film, but it succeeds on every level of what it tries to do, and for that, it's hard not to commend it. As I was watching the film, and approaching the ending (warning: Spoilers commencing in 5--), I was worried that it wouldn't complete the film. Thankfully, however, I was wrong.

What Moon successfully achieves during its last several minutes is the already over-analyzed and discussed term, "a character arc." Thanks to Wikipedia, I can tell you that a character arc is "the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline or series of episodes. Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes."

As an example, what is the character arc (for Batman) in The Dark Knight? In the first scene with Batman, he forcefully ties up his unwanted allies, the people of Gotham, along with his captured foes, reclining their offers of help. This sets up a character flaw: a mistrust towards others. When nearly all hope is lost and the Joker has Batman pinned down near the end of the film, he needs the people of Gotham in order to succeed. In order to succeed in his external goal (stop the Joker) he must overcome his flaw and complete his internal goal (trust in others). He needs to have faith in people--to believe that each boat will not flip the switch to destroy the other--and because of that Joker falters and Batman succeeds. Batman's character arc in The Dark Knight is to go from a lack of trust in people, to having faith in them instead.

Then what is the character arc in Moon? At the beginning of the film, Sam has one goal: to get back home after his 3 year stint. What is his flaw? His life is centered around him and his desires. Toward the end of the film, SamĀ² gets into the pod to escape the Moon. It was at this very moment I was worried that the film would carry me off into an unsatisfying ending, because Sam's lack of intervention would let the cycle of clones continue. It is at the exact point when Sam decides to jump back out, destroy the pylon tower, and care for someone other than himself, that he completes his character arc. That is the moment when the film becomes complete. He goes from being self-centered around his goals, to caring for others, even if they are the same as him.

Thanks to that transformation, I was satisfied with the film. Sam completes his character arc, the world changes thanks to his intervention, and some nice credits music rolls. The film reminded me of this point: It is not a sequence of events that results in a satisfying film--rather, it's an emotional transformation, a change, a payoff, that reveals a bit more of what it means to be human, a bit more of the humanity that lies within us all. It is not events that satisfy, but emotion.

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