Dopey Moonfall Goofily Soars into Apocalyptic Disaster
If you go into Moonfall not knowing what to expect you only have yourself to blame. Every ad. Every poster. Every commercial. All of them proudly proclaim the film as being from the director of 2012, Independence Day, and The Day After Tomorrow, the one and only Roland Emmerich. His latest is right up there with some of the dopiest bits of destruction porn this maestro of moronic mayhem has ever come up with, so it’s best to know going into the theater that’s going to be the case, otherwise you’re in for an arduously merciless two hours of pain.
A decade ago astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowl (Halle Berry) survived a horrendous accident involving the destruction of a satellite, the damaging of their space shuttle, and the tragic loss of a crew member. But where Fowl has risen up the ranks at NASA to a position of power, Harper’s refusal to tow the party line and say what he was told to no matter what the actual truth has left him an unemployed pariah. They’ve gone on different tracks, and to say no love is lost between them would be understating things considerably.
How fast things can change. With the Moon suddenly and inexplicably out of orbit, the only one who seems to know an iota of what is going on is Dr. KC Houseman (John Bradley), a disheveled nobody whose deranged theories have been laughed away as utter madness. But when his catastrophic computations of disaster are spot-on, it becomes clear to both Harper and Fowl that whatever disagreements they may have had in the past better remain buried there if they’re going to save the Earth from total destruction.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as just how utterly wacky Emmerich, Harald Kloser, and Spenser Cohen’s unabashedly puerile script proves to be. We’ve got family melodrama up the wazoo for all three of the primary characters, Harper and Howl have ex’s they’re still somewhat close to and children they love dearly, while Houseman’s beloved mother is in the early stages of dementia and is being cared for in a senior facility. This trio has to grapple with their decision to rocket to the Moon and leave their families behind on what appears to be a fool’s errand, while back on the ground all of their loved ones struggle to survive as tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, meteor strikes, and all other sorts of explosive mayhem attempt to do them in.
But it’s even goofier than that. Yet, while the trailers and commercials have all but revealed many of the film’s biggest twists, and just don’t feel comfortable going into any of them in great detail here all the same. Suffice it to say, the final third of this one explodes into narrative absurdity the likes of which I almost want to stand up and applaud. Elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, the Terminator franchise, and so many other massive science fiction stalwarts crash into one another with freewheeling abandon. There is whiz. There is bang. And all of it, every single second, is so gloriously stupid it’s difficult not to leave the theater feeling somewhat impressed.
The visual effects are outstanding, scenes during that climax of Harper, Fowl, and Houseman jetting around the interior of the Moon – don’t ask – while being chased by a destructive force directly responsible for putting the Earth in mortal jeopardy crackling with joyful electricity. There’s also an outstanding score courtesy of Kloser and his frequent composing collaborator Thomas Wanker (Midway, White House Down), the pair adding a musical component that helps augment the interstellar thrills and chills considerably.
The stuff down on Earth feels like an episode of “Emmerich’s Greatest Hits,” most notably 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. Even though these scenes involve actors as talented as Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Donald Sutherland, that doesn’t make any of them anything other than a cartoonish waste of time. Emmerich blows stuff up as terrifically as ever, sure, but that doesn’t mean these moments are enjoyable, and had a meteor landed smack dab right on the top of all of them I wouldn’t have shed a single tear.
Berry, Wilson, and Bradley fair a heck of a lot better. Once they achieve liftoff and start making their way to the Moon their characters and their performances take mutual flight. While they play all of their scenes straight there is still a sense that each actor is having a wonderful time reveling in all this stupefyingly dumb silliness. Their mutual commitment to the material and each other is apparent, and a got a moderate kick in watching all three play all of this madness out to its inevitably goofy conclusion.
Moonfall is maddingly nuts. Taken in the right frame of mind it can also be a great deal of ludicrous fun. While I find myself leaning in the latter direction, I certainly have to warn viewers that the former is a real possibility, flashy visuals and charismatic performances from the stars not nearly enough conceal the insane madness Emmerich’s latest almost purposefully takes great joy reveling in.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)