CAST: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland, Eme Ikwuakor, Carolina Bartczak, Maxim Roy, Stephen Bogaert, Azriel Dalman
RUNNING TIME: 120 mins
BASICALLY…: When the Moon is mysteriously placed on a collision course with Earth, it’s up to a pair of astronauts (Berry and Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist (Bradley) to save the day…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Roland Emmerich has done a lot of crazy things in his many disaster movies, from destroying God knows how many popular landmarks to casting Matthew Broderick as the lead in 1998’s Godzilla, but he somehow manages to out-crazy himself with Moonfall, which is by far the most bonkers movie of his career – and also, quite possibly, his most purely entertaining since Independence Day.
It’s hard to describe the basic plot to this movie without giving away certain key non-spoilery elements that make this movie so insane, but I’ll give it a go anyway; it is discovered that the Moon has been flung out of orbit, and is now on a collision course with Earth. In a bid to save humanity, astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) recruits disgraced cosmonaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist K.C. (John Bradley) for a mission into space towards the Moon to stop it before it can destroy the Earth.
At first glance, Moonfall certainly wears the skin of a prototypical Roland Emmerich disaster flick: the rampant worldwide destruction, the band of unlikely heroes, the geeky comic relief, it’s all present and correct. Even in that regard, though, it’s one of his more engaging ones in a number of years, for there is a genuine earnestness to its B-movie quality that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and allows itself to embrace some of the familiar conventions rather than just play them completely straight. It’s a trap that a number of recent Emmerich movies fell into like 2012 and Independence Day: Resurgence, and even some of his non-disaster movies like Midway, which all had far too great a notion of self-seriousness to properly enjoy without having your brain switched on. Not Moonfall, though, for it embraces its rampant disaster movie silliness from the very first scene, which involves Patrick Wilson in space singing off-key to Toto’s “Africa”, and refreshingly doesn’t let up from there.
But then, just when you think you know what you’re settling down to watch, Emmerich goes further, and further, and further still. It isn’t just that the Moon is quickly hurtling towards Earth like the asteroid in Armageddon, but it’s also doing so knowingly; there are things revealed about the Moon in this movie that are, to put it mildly, completely nuts and wildly insane, but makes for surprisingly gleeful dumb entertainment. The Moon in this movie is essentially a Lunar Michael Myers, peering out from behind a corner before striking and destroying places around the world with its own gravitational pull and falling debris, while also killing anyone and anything that gets up close to it with… wait, why should I spoil the fun? Just go and see it if you want to know more about the Moon in Moonfall, because I guarantee that no matter what you may be thinking it might end up being, nothing will prepare you for the absolute onslaught of madness that Roland Emmerich (who also co-wrote the script) has cooked up here.
Again, it’s made so much more entertaining because Emmerich never seems to take it all so seriously, as though even he is in on the fact that this whole thing really is pretty stupid. You can tell that there is real passion in making this film, not seen within Emmerich since the likes of Independence Day, which like this movie also embraces every silly little detail without caring what anyone else thinks. It’s easy to tell that Emmerich is having lots of fun with all of these effects-heavy action sequences, and with these characters who are certainly stock archetypes, but are both written and performed in such a way that they all know what kind of movie they’re in and don’t try to be anything else (on that note, serious props to actors like Oscar-winner Halle Berry who deliver plenty of silly B-movie lines with the straightest of faces). In a weird way, Moonfall is a rather endearing production due to how much passion you can feel leaping off the screen, with everything from the script to the performances to the effects (some of them, anyway; there is some questionable green-screen used throughout in certain parts) all in service of an absolutely bonkers plot that gets more and more ridiculous, but no less entertaining, as it goes along.
How does one even begin to critique this movie, for it’s clear from the very start that it’s one of those movies that cares not for what the analytical type thinks? Sure, the dialogue is a bunch of hooey, not all of the visual effects look as great as others, and its idea of science is so backwards that you can hear Neil deGrasse Tyson having a heart attack in the background, but honestly… who cares? Dumb movies will always exist, but there are some that are so earnest in their execution that pointing out their most obvious flaws feels petty, and Moonfall is one that legitimately deserves to be labelled “critic-proof”. You can point out its nonsense all damn day, but by the end of it you’re just as swept up in all the insanity as everyone else, eagerly waiting to see exactly where the madness is eventually going to lead, and being thoroughly engaged with characters that may be silly cardboard cut-outs yet are still enjoyable enough to carry entire effects-heavy sequences.
Think of Moonfall as the more fun cousin of Don’t Look Up; sure, that movie may technically be smarter, and will almost certainly be nominated for far more Oscars than this one ever will be, but this one is ready to paint the town red with its stupidity and never look back on its mistakes, by far making it the way more enjoyable of the two. Most of all, it’s just great to see Roland Emmerich get back to his roots after a number of costly missteps, and going by how much passion and energy he puts into his project, it’s like that part of him never left.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Moonfall is Roland Emmerich’s most purely entertaining disaster movie in years, one that embraces both its familiar conventions and also its absolutely insane premise to create an engaging and surprisingly endearing production that may be short on brain cells, but is certainly not lacking in good old-fashioned popcorn blockbuster fun.