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MOONFALL (2022) review

February 8, 2022


written by: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen
produced by: Harald Kloser and Roland Emmerich
directed by: Roland Emmerich
rated: PG-13 for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use
runtime: 1360 min.
U.S. release date: February 4, 2022 (theatrical)


For his latest release, director Roland Emmerich returns to the moon – what, you’ve never seen “Moon 44”, his sci-fi actioner from 1990? That’s no surprise, considering it’s not one of the big-budget blockbusters he would become known for from that decade (that’d be “Universal Soldier”, “Stargate” and “Independence Day”, let’s forget about his iteration of “Godzilla”), but it definitely was the seed for his affinity for spectacle movies in the science fiction genre. With “Moonfall”, he’s asking viewers to look up once again, while combining some of the disaster tropes from his other previous movies, such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012”, in an attempt to resuscitate his career after the disappointing returns from his last movie, “Midway” in 2019. “Moonfall” could be the worst movie Emmerich has made, if it wasn’t for how unintentionally funny it is. In that sense, it’s entertaining in ways no one involved intended.

“Moonfall” opens in 2011, on a satellite repair mission, with NASA astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and a colleague are attacked by a mysterious black swarm while in space, while Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (Halle Berry) is knocked unconscious inside the shuttle during the attack. Only Brian witnessed what occurred – in an event that cost his colleague’s life – and when he is asked by NASA to explain what transpired, the events are deemed his fault and he is terminated. Feeling discarded and useless for the better part of a decade, Brian loses himself in alcohol, while neglecting bills and estranging himself from his son, Sonny (played as a child by Azriel Dalman and as an adult by Charlie Plummer) and his now ex-wife, Brenda (Carolina Bartczak). No such phenomenon has been mentioned ever since.



In 2021, Los Angeles mega-structuralist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) has gathered information which supports his theory that the moon is shifting out of orbit, and sets out to take his findings to NASA, in order to prove he’s not just another conspiracy nut job with a social media platform. He also believes that the moon isn’t just the moon, but rather a mega-structure which is controlled by sentient aliens and/or an A.I. entity (quite possibly both). While lecturing students on a field trip at the Griffith Observatory, K.C. encounters Brian (who is late as the scheduled guest speaker for the kids), who through some convincing begins to validate this theory. Meanwhile, Jo has elevated to a top-level position at NASA since that fatal mishap in 2001, and she learns what is happening to the moon from the resources she has access to and it is communicated that there is three weeks before the moon crashes into our planet. After a failed recent launch to the moon, both Brian and K.C. track down Jo and the trio wind up inevitably (and bafflingly) dusting off a museum space shuttle with the goal of confronting – well, dropping an EMP bomb in the hole that has surprisingly opened up on the moon’s surface – this strange lifeform that threatens life as we know it.

The tone of “Moonfall” hits viewers upside the head during that opening scene with an eye-rolling sense of humor, which continues throughout this ridiculous movie and jeopardizes any sense of real peril. While Brian is doing repair work in space, Toto’s “Africa” can be heard, as he and Jo arguing over what the right lyrics are. That comes to a sudden stop when we meet the space swarm for the first time. It’s evident this is trying to be more than just a moon-falling-to-the-Earth disaster flick, and that initially provides some excitement and curiosity, but it’s all overwhelmed by stereotypical characters and truly awful dialogue uttered by every actor aboard this debacle. It isn’t just the wretched lines written for the actors (Emmerich co-wrote the screenplay with Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen) that hijack this movie, it’s also the regurgitated side plots from so many of Emmerich’s previous disaster films. Each of the main characters has to have some kind of fractured personal life or individual challenge to overcome, yet they pull it together because the world is depending on them. Patrick Wilson’s Brian has been a absent father due to his own career crisis, which seems like a mundane and flimsy reason, but we apparently must have a courtroom scene where Brian yells at a judge, asking him to be lenient on his son for joyriding and drug offenses. Halle Berry’s Jo has to contend with child protection issues with her ex-husband, Doug (Eme Ikwuakor), a top D.O.D. officer who is informs her that the U.S. is prepared to launch nuclear weapons in order to stop the growing lunar threat (something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, from a security leak perspective and a NASA/government angle). Then there’s John Bradley’s K.C., a a character who’s presenting as your typical science nerd that everyone overlooks, add on his obese size and poor personal hygiene and you have an unfortunate stereotype that’s accentuated by Bradley’s hammy acting. But, there’s also a forced redemption arc tacked on to this character that’s linked to his devoting and dementia-riddled mother (Kathleen Fee) being a source of inspiration for the hangdog character. Speaking of hangdog, it feels like all three of these actors share such a browbeaten appearance throughout the movie, that the movie could’ve easily been called “Sad Sacks in Space”.



With “Moonfall”, Emmerich is relying on the same silly tropes he’s used before and it’s dumbfounding how much no one involved cares. Even some of the supporting characters feel like they rolled out of those countless 90’s disaster B-movies that tried to swim in the wake of Emmerich’s indulgent epics. Donald Sutherland has a brief appearance (albeit relegated to a wheelchair) as a shadowy character that tips off Halle Berry with his “the government knew all along” whispered proclamations. Michael Pena is given one of many rinse-and-repeat characters as Brenda’s current husband, a rich car dealer owner she has two children with, someone winds up being an inevitably alright guy despite his stepdad status with Sonny. All in all, the more time we spend with the humans of “Moonfall”, the more we just want to see them obliterated, just like in so many of these end-of-the-world movies. As mentioned, Emmerich and his co-writers do try and add something more to the overall threat then mere planet devastation, but it the explanation of the real threat feels like it’s coming from an entirely different hairbrained movie.

Recent movies such as “Don’t Look Up” and “Greenland” prove that disaster movies don’t have to be this ludicrous and silly. Sure, “Don’t Look Up” is more of a straight-up comedy, but the reaction many of its characters have toward the end of the world feel much more realistic and interesting than anything here. A movie like “Greenland” deals with a planet-destroying comet in a very believable and real manner, relying less on special effects (cheesy or jaw-dropping) and more on a ground-level human reaction to the whole thing. “Moonfall” could’ve benefited from such approaches to the subgenre, but Emmerich plays it safe with his dopey go-to default mode. All that said, the movie did get some audible chuckles out of me and found me reminding myself that watching this kind of floating junk can be a hoot, even if it is unintentional.





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