Duncan Jones' Moon exists to confront us with the ethical question of "what is life?", or, rather, what deserves to have the same rights as we humans? Well, maybe Jones didn't intend for his film to have that issue front-and-center (and considering Moon's sloppiness, I'm pretty sure that he didn't) but with the solitary performance of Sam Rockwell (entertaining as always), it's hard not to walk out of the theater with any other pressing thoughts in your head. Because of this, Moon hangs out in the same Summer '09 moral arena as Nick Cassavettes' My Sister's Keeper and the upcoming District 9.
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut with a three-year contract on the moon to observe and assist some weird doodad machines that send containers of Helium back to Earth as a post-Green revolution energy source. We quickly learn that the Sam Bell presently on base is simply a clone of the original Sam Bell, who, twelve years ago, went back home to his family. The question then lingers: to what do we owe the clone(s)?
Now, I'm no expert on cloning or clones, and because - at least to my knowledge (gulp!) - I've never encountered one in my lifetime, my frame of reference on the "humanity" of a cloned human is about as limited as it is to the rest of you. However, a clone of a human would still be a human... I think. You see, the clones in Moon have a three-year lifespan (hence the three-year "contract"), so when their time has elapsed, they loose their functions just like Vicky from Small Wonder did when stupid Jamie flip her switch off.
Of course, the human clones begin to physically fall apart (ie losing hair, elasticity in the skin, etc.), so the company painlessly disposes of them in some sort of zap chamber that misleads the clone into thinking they are being zapped back home. The last third of Moon attempts to yank at our humanity so we feel compassion for the cloned Sam(s). The thing is, I didn't feel anything. I knew the original embryo-to-adult Sam was back home with his family, so I saw the Sam(s) on the moon as nothing more than programmed blobs of tissue. I'm not suggesting that should be the proper real-word response, but it's how I felt. I've felt compassion for robots, animated fish, and inanimate objects in countless movies before, so I blame Duncan Jones for not taking me to that place with a being that looks as close to human as you can get.
I mentioned sloppiness earlier, and Moon really mucks up any chance at profundity on the issue of "the humanity of human clones" by directing its message toward one of corporate greed. (What about the question of whether cloning is ethical to begin with???). Jones' story reveals that the Helium mining company, Lunar Industries, uses clones on the moon as a matter of cost-cutting. But really?!?! How would it be cheaper to produce, manage, and store thousands of clones in the hull of a ship than to send one human up ever few years or so? I guess the cost of fuel for a trip from Earth-to-moon would be quite expensive, but I would imagine the creation of clones would be too. Further, if technology has progressed to the point which it has in Moon, then why do we even require a human up there at all? Couldn't a robot (like Gerty, the Kevin Spacey-voiced robot that keeps Sam company) do the exact same tasks?
Ultimately, Moon gets by on the performance of Rockwell (I didn't like the movie, but I've read some critics label Moon as "coma-inducingly boring", which I don't get at all), who carries the film because his director is still so extremely wet behind the ears. Yes, I'll be cynical and say that I don't think Duncan Jones would have made this film were his father not so famous and wealthy and influential. Hey... maybe as an experiment to further the human cloning debate, we should clone Duncan Jones and see if his pod person does a better job directing than he. If so, I might just jump aboard the pro-cloning side!