Several people have written to me, recommending this modest, independent movie, saying it was good hard SF. And it was, in some ways. However …
Plot: (CONTAINS SPOILERS) A man has a three-year contract to run a moon base, all alone. Already I’m frowning … but never mind. He’s going a little bonkers. (Well, duuuh.) He supervises four big robot harvesters that are collecting Helium-3 to send back to Earth to power fusion plants. Okay, that’s feasible. The Power Company that owns the base provides 70% of Earth’s energy. That’s a bunch of power, but okay.
When he’s outside in his spacesuit, he performs the one-sixth-gee Armstrong Shuffle well enough, but when he’s inside he walks normally. Um … gravity would be the same inside and outside, dude. But I realize it’s very tough to imitate that, and the budget was low, so I’ll let it go.
Outside in vacuum everything goes clank and clunk, roars, hums, chugs, does everything but go choo-choo-choo. Okay, no one’s gotten the silence of space right since 2001: A Space Odyssey, everybody but scientists and nitpickers like me expects it by now … I’ll let it go.
They’re on the farside of the Moon, but there is seldom any two-way communication. The guy sits there and listens to messages from his wife, very much like Dave did in 2001. (In fact, the whole movie was deeply influenced by 2001, from the look of it to a concerned AI computer that sounds very much like HAL, called GERTY.) (It’s Kevin Spacey.) They’re communicating through something called the “Jupiter” link. Does this mean the signal is being routed through Jupiter? Sort of like routing your call to a guy across the street through Tierra del Fuego. But when the Company wants to talk to him—surprise!—they get right through. Explanation: the relay satellite is unreliable. They have only one relay satellite? For a facility that is harvesting 70% of the world’s energy, they haven’t invested in a spare? And the guy buys it? I’m getting antsy. There better be a good reason for all this. And by the way, when the guy does manage to get a call through to Earth, there is no time delay at all. As I recall, it’s about three light-seconds, round trip, Earth to Moon and back… but I’ll let that go.
And here’s the spoiler: The Company has made multiple clones of the guy, and they’re each good for about three years, then they start to fall apart. And this I just can’t let go. The Company has the money and resources to build this large base, which must have cost many, many billions, with an even larger hidden basement to house all the sleeping clones … and they can’t spring for carfare back and forth for a decent-sized crew of normal people to keep everybody sane? Investing in this massive, hugely expensive cloning facility is saving the Company money? Mention is made of “the cost of training a new caretaker,” and that’s simple bullshit. What we see this guy do could mostly be done by an orangutan. Or by GERTY, for that matter. I would be in favor of a human crew, but I’d want at least six, and married couples would be good. Now, I bow to no one in my contempt for corporations. I believe that the corporation as we know it, as a legal entity, should be utterly abolished. I believe they are capable of anything if it benefits the bottom line … but that’s the problem. I simply don’t believe this is a profitable thing to do. They are willing to commit multiple murder just so they don’t have to train somebody else do to simple tasks? Bullshit. They turn a multi-billion dollar enterprise over to a single person, who is almost certain to go bugfuck in three years all by himself? Bullshit.
See, this whole situation was manipulated artificially to get to the thing writer/director Duncan Jones (who is the son of David Bowie, by the way) really wanted to explore, which is a man meeting and interacting with himself. Because three clones of Sam Rockwell are the only people we see in the flesh in the whole film. Now, that’s a damn good idea to explore. I’ve done it myself in a couple of stories. But the setup has to be plausible, for me, and there is nothing plausible in this whole scenario. Which is a damn shame, since there was so much potential there.
Can’t end this without two more gripes. They’re on the farside—again, as part of this elaborate ruse so the guy can’t communicate with Earth except when the Company wants him to. But there is more Helium-3 on the nearside. And they must be right on the freakin’ edge of the farside. The guys go out in a crawler, state that they’ve traveled about a hundred miles from the base … and there’s the Earth, hanging quite a bit above the horizon. I just don’t believe one hundred miles would make that possible.
Sorry, but when you set yourself up as “hard SF,” you’d better be ready to explain massive goofs like this.