Thursday, February 28, 2013

Armchair Story Editing: MOON

While spitballing story ideas with my creative partner Fred via e-mail I brought up the film Moon as an example of a story that I felt missed it's own point. This particular exchange felt interesting enough to share with others, so here we are.

We were discussing how sometimes neat concepts are ignored or merely used to service plot, whether mediocre or great, and how I dislike that and often wonder what could have been. Prometheus was an obvious example but also an easy target. So I used Moon because it's actually fairly beloved by film buffs and sci-fi lovers alike.

I love science fiction and I enjoyed Moon, especially Sam Rockwell's performance. I didn't analyze it because I feel it's a bad movie, but because even good material can go astray.

Spoilers, obviously...

[On stories that bury the lead...] I didn't totally love Moon for similar reasons. You have a guy working in isolation on a lunar base who believes he's soon going home to earth but doesn't know he's in fact a disposable life form owned and manufactured by a corporation. There's an elaborate charade to keep him unaware of his fate that includes an AI nanny that runs everything anyway.

By having the AI there, you've made the need for a human superintendent unnecessary, and there goes your story.*

*My point being that if the whole facility is automated and looked after by AI, it seems redundant to have a single human watching over things. It's been a few years since seeing the film, and I guess it can be argued that Rockwell's character served as a maintenance worker since the plot kicks into gear when he ventures out to fix a malfunction of some kind. But since those difficulties appeared few and far between, I maintain it would be more efficient to send a repair crew when problems arise as opposed having someone up there at all times. I would even argue that simple robots navigated by workers from Earth or a space station could also serve to that end. But okay, I'm nitpicking...

I realized the only reason the story was structured the way it was was to have this twist--OH! He's a clone!* It was a decent movie, but even the conclusion felt too neat; he goes back to Earth to blow the lid off this corporation that's manufacturing human life for the express purpose of slave labor and we don't get to fucking see that? The movie buried the real lead to service a plot twist that was only kind of neat.

*The reveal actually comes midway in the film. It's somewhat obvious but doesn't feel cheap, neither does it rely on the twist-factor to sell the premise like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. In fact the second act proved most interesting because it focused on the two Sam Rockwells interacting with each other. However this relationship is cut short in the third act when a crew from HQ back on Earth arrives to eliminate both Sams (probably). The consequences of Sam's return to Earth are relayed in news headlines delivered in monotonous voiceovers by news anchors.

If I was tasked with reworking that movie, I'd ask myself what was trying to be said. Make it a statement about North America's outsourcing to China, and how Chinese laborers practically live and die in their work environments. These people aren't in the dark
[about their situation]. Their eyes are wide open to that fact. So I'd make Sam Rockwell either perfectly aware of his circumstance, or have no AI for him to interact with. Have someone on a screen ordering him to do this and that, see him running this rat race to meet deadlines and be super productive. Have the situation be so absurd that audiences will go "WHY would anyone put themselves through that willingly? How horrible!" Then have him die, get replaced, and maybe the new clone is defective and doesn't adhere the order of things. Life finds a way, so to speak. He finds a way to get back to earth and tells the world what's going on. "This corporation has an army of clones--human lives with no rights working until they die!"

Then nobody cares because they'd rather listen to their iPods or read BuzzFeed on their iPads and the escaped clone DIES alone and worthless.

If you haven't seen Moon and still wish to after reading this, you totally should. It's good, original sci-fi and that should always be supported.



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