At some point, you’ve been introduced to the man in the moon. Perhaps a parent pointed out his face on a late-night drive, or a friend described his massive grin during a lull in a sleepover. Perhaps you discovered him yourself, making out his cheery face while lying in your backyard.
As it turns out, it’s lonely being the only man on the moon. The Moon Man of Stephen Shesch’s animated film certainly is. Though the children of the world bellow rely on the Moon Man for comfort and reassurance, he grows increasingly agitated in his rocky home. So when a meteor passes by one day on its way to Earth, the Moon Man doesn’t hesitate to climb aboard.
His first hours after landing are Moon Man at its best. Gyula Szabo is a talented illustrator and it shows here, as Moon Man explores forests and fields, festivals and streets, parks and fortresses. The landscape is highly texturized and the starry night lends it an almost extraterrestrial quality. Moon Man wanders through it all repeating “home,” the only word he knows, like a lost E.T.
The world that Moon Man explores is as foreign to us as it is to him. Earth has become a Risk game board, literally. The World President marks each newly conquered country with a grey flag featuring the world’s emblem, also a grey flag. The World President’s followers are grey and homogenous, shown mostly in silhouette and sliding rather than walking, like machines rolling in accordance with orders. Their main function is to confirm the World President’s statements with a diligent “Yes, sir!”
Moon Man loses its magic as soon as these Earthlings enter the scene. Cartoonish and visually unimaginative, Szabo’s characters contrast harshly with his lush settings, often distorting otherwise beautiful graphics. I found myself trying to look past and around them to no avail. Shoddily crafted personas make Moon Man unwatchable.
The script is contrived, the characters forced. Shesch doesn’t take the time to develop them and consequentially, none have layers beyond their stereotypical literary roles. The World President is just a devious villain. Moon Man is just a heroic figure. Strong, relatable characters are necessary to ground a film with extraneous and supernatural qualities, like those in Moon Man. Ultimatley, Shesch fails to produce them, his attempts at development further conventionalizing the characters of his film.
Moon Man was exotic and distant when he was a jovial face up in the sky. Perhaps he should have stayed there.
Moon Man plays
Saturday, May 25th at Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center and
Saturday, June 2nd at AMC Pacific Place
For more info, go here