Title: Moonfall (2022) Director: Roland Emmerich Writers: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser, Spenser Cohen Stars: Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry, John Bradley
Hollywood’s own one-trick pony, director Roland Emmerich, is at it again. In Moonfall, we are treated to another ludicrous story about a world-ending disaster inspired by fringe science and wacky conspiracy theories. And yet again, we get to watch our heroes narrowly escape oncoming walls of fire, waves of water, falling rocks and other assorted debris.
Meet the former NASA astronaut Brian (played by Patrick Wilson). His life isn’t easy. NASA won’t return his calls, and now he barely makes ends meet by teaching kids about space. His rent is overdue, and eviction is imminent. His son and ex-wife won’t speak to him. All this because he spoke the truth about what he witnessed during a routine mission to repair a satellite some ten years ago.
Now the moon is falling (Moonfall, get it? Moon-fall… alright, I’ll continue with the review…), and the first to find proof is the conspiracy theorist and “megastructurist” K.C. (played by John Bradley). Of course, no one believes him, but when NASA also figures out the truth, K.C. and Brian, along with Brian’s former colleague Jocinda (played by Halle Berry), now a high-ranking NASA official, teams up to save the Earth from the moon, and stop the dangers lurking inside it.
Fun Fact: Megastructures are theoretical planet-sized or even larger structures built by advanced, spacefaring species. The theory was popularized in the 60s by Freeman Dyson, coining the term Dyson Sphere. They vary in size, but some examples are the Halo Array from the Halo universe, the Death Star from Star Wars and Elysium from Neil Bloomkampf’s underrated science fiction film Elysium.
The contents of Moonfall‘s 2 hours and 10 minutes are exactly what it says on the tin. Roland Emmerich is known, even notorious, for making ever-escalating films about world-ending disasters – over and over again. The characters in Emmerich’s films have become archetypes in the genre. A divorced protagonist, and estranged son, the high-ranking official, bumbling military officers with their fingers on the nuke button and the conspiracy theorist who was right all along. We’ve seen it before, and it is all here. Moonfall is painfully formulaic and doesn’t have a shred of originality.
But is it fun? I mean, you don’t watch a Roland Emmerich disaster flick for its deep story and well-developed characters, do you? Yes, it is often fun, in a popcorn-gobbling sort of way. It is the same sort of action and disaster, even down to certain scenes being identical, to Emmerich’s other disaster flicks, such as Independence Day, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. And if you like films like that, odds are you’ll like this one too.
Emmerich’s films often stand and fall by their lead roles. If they can’t pull it off and charm us in some way, the film becomes background noise, a sort of cheap remix of better things. And in many ways, Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry and maybe especially John Bradley manages to pull us in, despite their characters staying within the limits of their disaster movie archetypes. Of course, there are the expected updates inspired by the current news and popular culture. John Bradley’s Elon Musk fanboy K.C., for example, drops several unsubtle references, from looking at a SpaceX poster while asking “What would Elon do?” to shouting “Ludicrous Mode!” while speeding away from dangers in a space shuttle (Ludicrous Mode is an acceleration mode in certain Tesla models… yes, I admit I’m also a fan!). The product placement is strong in this one!
There are other characters here too, but they’re mostly forgettable. Michael Peña’s talents go underused in his role as Brian’s ex-wife’s new husband. But the biggest head-scratcher might be Donald Sutherland’s short, almost cameo-like role – only there to bring some severely needed gravitas to the film. It doesn’t help much.
Moonfall is a forgettable fringe-conspiracy-inspired science fiction disaster flick – the last in a long line of similar films from Roland Emmerich. It works well for what it is supposed to do, but not much else. But if you like this kind of shamelessly formulaic fare, you can’t go wrong with this film. But don’t expect anything more from it.