REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Over The Moon’ Tackles Astrophysics, Loss, and Chinese Mythology

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Netflix's Over The Moon

Netflix’s Over The Moon is a Netflix Original Film directed by Glen Keane and written by Audrey Wells. It is produced by Pearl Studio and Sony Pictures Imageworks in association with Netflix. The story follows Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) who loses her mother at a young age. When her father (John Cho) decides to get remarried, an upset Fei Fei builds a rocket to travel to the moon and prove the existence of the moon goddess Chang’e (Philippa Soo), who her mother told her about when she was a child.

Keane is best known for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios, including classic films Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Here he delivers a visually stunning movie, especially the sequences set on the moon. Luminaria, the kingdom where Chang’e resides, is full of bright and vivid colors and different beasts inspired by Chinese mythology. There are large beasts resembling Imperial lions, glowing mooncakes, and giant toads. If you are a fan of Pearl Studio’s Abominable, then this film definitely is in the same wheelhouse.

Much like a Disney film, there are also several songs peppered throughout the runtime. This is one of the elements where viewers might be split: I enjoyed the opening song “On The Moon Above”, but the rap number in the middle feels like it was put there to pad out the running time. Soo steals the show with the song “Ultraluminary,” displaying the vocal talents that served her well during Hamilton.

What will more than likely draw viewers to the film is its depiction of Chinese culture and mythology. The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, plays a large part in the film as we see Fei Fei and her family making mooncakes-a delicacy that is usually enjoyed at the festival. The myth of Chang’e and Houyi also plays a large role in the film, serving as the driving narrative force.

Over the Moon

Befitting a story influenced by Chinese mythology, the majority of Over The Moon‘s cast is Asian-American. And it’s an amazing cast, especially where Ang and Soo are concerned. Ang carries the bulk of the film’s emotional journey, as she deals with depression and loss. It’s also great to see a character embrace the mystical and the scientific, as those forces often tend to be in opposition with each other in genre films. Fei Fei uses the scientific skills she learned from her father to travel to the moon and her knowledge of mythology she learned from her mother during her trip to Luminaria, which comes in handy during different parts of the film.

Soo delivers a multilayered performance as Chang’e. When Fei Fei first meets her, she behaves as any deity would: self-centered and not that concerned with the desires of mortals. However, as the film progresses her haughty mask slips and viewers learn that she is mourning the death of her lover Houyi. This parallels Fei Fei’s grief over her mother and ultimately leads to both characters learning to let go of their grief. This scene only hit harder when I learned that screenwriter Audrey Wells passed away from cancer in 2018.

The rest of the cast provides comic relief, especially Fei Fei’s future stepbrother Chin (Robert G. Chiu) and the glowing green pangolin Gobi (Ken Jeong). While I did get a few chuckles out of their scenes, I much preferred the emotional arc that Fei Fei and Chin had while learning to accept each other as family. Similarly, Fei Fei’s pet rabbit Bungee seems to be in the movie solely to fulfill the “cute animal sidekick” quota.

However, all of the characters are just as fully realized as the environments surrounding them and have their own distinct flourishes. Fei Fei has short, choppy hair and a silver space jacket with matching boots while Chang’e possesses the long flowing robes and immaculate hairstyles that you’d expect from a goddess. Even Bungee’s fur looks like the real thing, which speaks to the level of care put into bringing these characters to life.

Netflix’s Over The Moon is visually stunning and emotionally resonant, mixing together several elements for a satisfying story. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or you’re looking for something to watch with the family you can’t go wrong with this film. It also manages to utilize Chinese mythology in a way that enriches its story.

Netflix’s Over The Moon is currently available to stream.

Netflix's 'Over The Moon'
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Netflix’s Over The Moon is visually stunning and emotionally resonant, mixing together several elements for a satisfying story. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or you’re looking for something to watch with the family you can’t go wrong with this film. It also manages to utilize Chinese mythology in a way that enriches its story.