How do you top a movie that dealt with a global catastrophe that resulted in cities sliding into the sea and tsunamis cresting the Himalayas? Not an easy task and this was the problem facing writer/director Roland Emmerich when he attempted to outdo his own epic disaster 2012, a film that was a clear attempt to top his previous disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. Undaunted by this formidable challenge, Emmerich put pen to paper and brought the world a tale that would answer the question “What if the Moon was actually a spaceship and it was falling towards the Earth?” But was anyone asking that question?
You know what they say, “In space, no one can hear you scream” but in Moonfall, you’ll be screaming at the screen as you demand to know why the characters in this movie act and react like morons and not astronauts or scientists. It’s as if none of them had ever seen a disaster movie before. Seriously, did they not see Armageddon or Deep Impact? Did not one person in this movie think of calling Bruce Willis? The plot of this film follows the adventures of disgraced astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and work-wife Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (Halle Berry), who had both survived an encounter with a malevolent space anomaly that had killed a member of their team and damaged their space shuttle. Due to a NASA cover-up, and Jo’s failure to back Brian’s claims of seeing a mysterious swarm of alien technology are ignored, he is fired and forced to live off money earned via speaking engagements for children. The third member of this film’s heroic trio is conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), a big nerd who believes that the Moon is an artificial megastructure created by an alien race and is powered by a dwarf star. It’s his discovery that the Moon’s orbit has changed that gets the plot going.
Writer/director Roland Emmerich doesn’t like to stray too far from the disaster film formula so there will be loads of secondary characters that will have little to nothing to do with the main plot but are required to pad out the film’s running time. First, we have Brain’s family, which consists of his ex-wife (Carolina Bartczak), their juvenile delinquent son (Charlie Plummer) and Brenda’s new husband (Michael Peña), who if you know anything about disaster movies is not likely to make it to the end credits. Then we have Jocinda’s ex-husband (Eme Ikwuakor), who is a Four-Star General and part of the military complex who stupidly wants to nuke the Moon, next, there is Jocinda’s 10-year-old son (Zayn Maloney) and the kid’s foreign exchange student nanny (Kelly Hu), who in a different film would have probably been a love interest for the delinquent,- lucky for us we were spared that dynamic – and none of these characters are well-developed and aside from the Four-Star General none of them will have any bearing on the plot and are only around so that they can be imperilled by the cataclysmic forces unleashed upon them by the approaching Moon.
Brian, Jocinda and Houseman become Earth’s last chance at survival, with much of this consisting of flying a retired space shuttle up to the Moon and using a mothballed EMP weapon to destroy the alien techno-swarm. Things get interesting when our trio enters the Moon to discover that Houseman and his conspiracy nut friends were right, that the Moon is actually a Dyson sphere powered by a white dwarf at its center, but that’s not all, the Moon’s benevolent A.I. operating system explains to them that humanity is descended from an ancient alien race that was eradicated by ages ago by a rogue A.I. and that our Moon is an Interstellar ark that was created to seed life on Earth, but when the rogue A.I. tracked down this “Moon” it began siphoning energy from its power source, destabilizing its orbit and sending it crashing into the Earth, basically, killing two birds with one stone. This all may seem ludicrous, which it is, but I will give the actors credit for delivering and receiving such pieces of information with a straight face, and the special effects on display were really quite spectacular. As I am a sucker for disaster porn and goofy science fiction, this film checked off a lot of my boxes.
Note: Our heroes entering the interior of the Moon really gave off a powerful V’ger vibe to me and one must assume that the design team were big fans of the Robert Wise’s Star Trek the Motion Picture.
• The plot of this movie deals with the Moon’s orbit being altered and chunks of the moon falling to Earth, which is the same plot line as the beginning of Flash Gordon (1980).
• Brian Harper is said to be the only pilot to ever land the Space Shuttle without power, but as the Shuttle uses a fly-by-wire system it would be impossible to move the control surfaces or deploy the landing gear, which is hydraulically driven using electrical pumps, without power and thus it is actually impossible to land the Space Shuttle no matter how awesome a pilot you were.
• During Brian Harper’s “Wrongful Dismissal Hearings” NASA claims that the incident could have been caused by a passing meteor or solar flair, but if that were the case, how could Brian be fired for negligence? Clearly, the government is really bad at constructing a cover-up.
• White dwarf’s masses are hundreds of thousands of times greater than the Earth, while the Moon is one percent of Earth’s mass and any object as massive as a white dwarf placed as close to us as the moon would tear the Earth apart without needing to get any closer.
• As the Moon gets very close to colliding with Earth we continue to see our heroes using satellite phones despite the fact that all satellites would have long since been destroyed.
• The Moon’s operating system creates a construct that looks like Brian’s son to communicate with him much as the aliens in the film Contact did when they assumed the form of Jodi Foster’s dad.
• The A.I. that the Ancestors created became self-aware and launched a coordinated attack against biological life forms, which is pretty much the premise of the James Cameron Terminator franchise.
This was one of the most expensive independently financed movies ever produced, with a budget estimated at $138-146 million, and it was also one of the biggest box-office bombs of all time, but I must ask “Does that necessarily make this a bad movie?” Sure, the plot is ludicrous and the acting is only slightly above what you’d find on daytime soap operas, but if you’re looking for a movie that’s out of this world, and it really is, then Moonfall might just be the thing for you as it has everything you could want in a sci-fi disaster movie. From epic destruction to heroic astronauts pulling off daring acts and a moon that just won’t quit, there is just so much batshit crazy stuff you that almost have to admire Emmerich for coming up with this insane stuff.
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
Overall, Moonfall is an enjoyable movie that delivers on its promise of spectacular action and visual effects; however, it falls short in terms of its plot and character development, making it a somewhat forgettable experience. Fans of disaster movies and Roland Emmerich’s previous work may enjoy Moonfall, but those looking for a more substantial and meaningful sci-fi film may be disappointed.