REVIEW: ‘Moonfall’ Embraces The Cosmic Chaos Of Its Concept

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Moonfall - But Why Tho

Moonfall, directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, escalates the trademark destruction the director’s become associated with. On a satellite repair mission in 2011, Commander Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and pilot Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) are attacked by a swarm of nanomachines that appears to originate from the moon. In the present day, the moon drops out of its orbit, causing a massive disaster on Earth. With mankind on the brink of extinction. Harper and Fowler discover a conspiracy surrounding the moon’s true nature that stretches all the way back to the Apollo 11 mission and with the help of “megastructurist” KC Houseman (John Bradley), plan a mission to save the Earth.

Emmerich launched his career with science fiction films including Universal Soldier, Stargate, and Independence Day. Moonfall marks his return to the genre and he does so with gusto. “The moon crashing into Earth” is the kind of gonzo premise you can only find in science fiction, and Emmerich uses said premise to cause untold destruction. Gravity shifts out of wack, throwing cars into the air and causing tidal waves to swallow the entire East Coast. Pieces of the moon break off and hit the ground with explosive results. Mountains literally explode. Not only do these scenes justify the film’s $146 million price tag, but it’s also the same sense of destruction I’ve come to expect from the man who had an alien warship blow up the White House.

And keeping in line with those previous entries, the film’s story slowly unveils a massive twist concerning the moon’s true nature. On the one hand, this leads to a massive infodump moment in the final act that’s more or less setting up a sequel. On the other hand, it’s a twist that’s truly bonkers and has to be seen to be believed. I truly admire that Emmerich goes all-in with the insanity where other filmmakers would lean away from it. He knows what kind of movie he’s making and he wholeheartedly embraces the sci-fi insanity.

Wilson and Berry are perfectly cast as the film’s protagonists. Wilson’s been a fairly compelling presence in films including the Conjuring franchise and Aquaman. In Moonfall, he gets to loosen up a little, portraying Harper as a guy who’s good with machines but struggles to connect with his teenage son (Charlie Plummer). Berry serves as the brains of the duo, refusing to give up even when all other options seem exhausted. This type of dynamic’s served Emmerich well, from Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day to Kurt Russell and James Spader in Stargate. It’s nice to see the tradition continue.

I’m not so sure how to feel about Bradley. Emmerich, along with co-writers Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen, chose to make Bradley’s Houseman a conspiracy theorist who gets dismissed when he suggests the moon isn’t what it seems. And surprise, surprise, he turns out to be right. This is a trope that’s growing old fast, and it more or less regulates Bradley to the role of comic relief since everyone laughs him off. Much like Brian Tyree Henry in Godzilla vs Kong, it also seems like a waste of Bradley’s talents. He’s outshined by Wilson and Berry in every scene he shares with them, leading to awkward moments throughout the final act. And I groaned at Houseman’s near-hero worship of Elon Musk. That certainly was a choice.

The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t fare much better. Plummer plays the stereotypical “rebellious teenager whose dad wasn’t there for him,” meaning you can probably predict how his scenes with Wilson end up. Michael Peña is regulated to the “evil stepdad” trope as car dealer Tom Lopez, who married Harper’s ex-wife—though he does get a genuinely heroic moment in the climax. And Donald Sutherland has a total of five minutes in the movie, which is a genuine shame, as I feel he’d have worked really well alongside Wilson and Berry. Great disaster movies are usually bolstered by an all-star cast; Emmerich could have taken a page from Don’t Look Up and filled out his cast a little more or figured out how to use them.

Moonfall is the type of disaster movie that only Roland Emmerich could make, and one that he excels at. It boasts engaging performances from Wilson and Berry, leans all the way into its admittedly ridiculous premise, and sees Emmerich returning to the genre that kickstarted his filmmaking career. If you’re able to do so safely, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX.

Moonfall premieres in theaters nationwide on February 4, 2022.


Moonfall
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Moonfall is the type of disaster movie that only Roland Emmerich could make, and one that he excels at. It boasts engaging performances from Wilson and Berry, leans all the way into its admittedly ridiculous premise, and sees Emmerich returning to the genre that kickstarted his filmmaking career. If you’re able to do so safely, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX.