June 12, 2009
On the Big Board
||Science fiction the way they used to make it
||Interesting concept, and Sam Rockwell pretty much pulled it off, but it went on for much too long. By the end, I didn't really care what happened.
It looks a bit like Cast Away in space with what appears to be some environmental themes and isolation paranoia thrown into the mix. I don’t really know how else to describe Sony Pictures Classics’ Sundance pick-up, Moon.
Moon stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, an astronaut stationed on the moon, harvesting some sort of alternative fuel. As his three-year assignment reaches its conclusion, Bell starts to go a bit stir crazy and fears he’s not alone. In the role Wilson plays in Cast Away is the robot GERTY voiced by Kevin Spacey.
Moon is a sci-fi flick, more of the heady Solaris, Sunshine, 2001 variety than of the actiony Star Wars, Terminator, Transformers ilk. This is good news for hardcore sci-fi fans, who feel that films such as Star Wars have ghettoized their beloved genre.
The problem is, mainstream audiences like their sci-fi ghettoized. While Star Wars has earned over $460 million over the years, Solaris was only able to eke out $15 million, despite the presence of star George Clooney. Transformers raked in $318 million, while Oscar winner Danny Boyle’s Sunshine only managed a little over $3 million.
Of course, Tom Hanks showed in Cast Away that a one-man show can bring in the crowds ($234 million), and Moon looks to be quite the showcase for Sam Rockwell’s talents. And he is quite talented. Since coming to prominence in Hanks’ 1999 hit The Green Mile, Rockwell has earned consistently glowing reviews (even when the films themselves haven’t necessarily received raves) in such fare as Galaxy Quest, Charlie’s Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Matchstick Men, Choke, and Frost/Nixon.
Again, the rub, The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels and Galaxy Quest did well, but since then, Rockwell’s been looking for a hit. Matchstick Men scored $37 million, Hitchhiker picked up $51 million, Choke wrangled $3 million, and Frost/Nixon’s Oscar nods only brought it slightly north of $18 million. Unfair box office treatment for a talented man, but the poor fellow can’t seem to mesh his eclectic taste in scripts with a mass audience.
One other factor that’s sure to get some press as the release date looms is director Duncan Jones’ lineage. It seems he’s David Bowie’s son. Good for some photo ops and feature pieces, but given that he has no filmography of note with which to market Moon to audiences, the bloodline connection’s likely to inspire nothing more than mild press curiosity.
Moon looks to be one of those films that really don’t do much in the way of box office upon initial release, but over time, develops a faithful, passionate following and lives on in college dorms and on “overlooked classic” lists for all eternity. And expect some good notices for Sam Rockwell. (Martin Felipe/BOP)