Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rock and Roland [Review: Moon 44]

Before he developed his obsession with trashing the White House in as many ways as possible, director Roland Emmerich had a career making films. For instance, you may remember a little number called Stargate that went on to do quite well.

Moon 44 is a German Emmerich feature from 1990, set in an Alien-like future where space is exploited commercially by competing transnationals. One corporation is preparing to defend it's last resource mine against it's competitor's robotic aircraft. Naturally they can only man their helicopter gunships with convicts and fly them with the help of teenage hackers. There's also an undercover agent amongst the convicts on the trail of some stolen shuttles, trying to find a whistleblower amongst the hackers.

The interaction between the convicts and the hackers accounts for much of this relatively low-tech, character-driven film. Outside the mega-blockbuster arena Emmerich proves capable of handling more challenging, less mainstream material including the (off-screen) rape of a hacker by a convict, and the subsequent revenge taken by the hackers. Effects and locations are pre-CGI but effective with well designed models and sets, and great, gloomy sci-fi lighting. If only someone would hide Roland's multi-billion-dollar effects budget then maybe he'd direct a few more of these movies.

Having said that, there's a lot in Moon 44 that echoes Independence Day - air force machismo, canyon-based aerial action, and a certain Dean Devlin who plays hacker Tyler, and who went on to co-write Stargate and Independence Day.

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