Roland Emmerich makes disaster movies. And he’s pretty good at it. “Independence Day”. “The Day After Tomorrow”. “2012”. “Independence Day: Resurgence” (which was an actual disaster of a movie). He also set Washington D.C. ablaze in “White House Down”, gave us an action-packed depiction of the Battle of Midway and even let Godzilla unleash his brand of hysteria. Emmerich’s latest plan to try to destroy Earth (on screen) involves taking the Moon out of its orbit and sending massive chunks of it directly at us (and, sadly, it’s not cheese).
“Moonfall” can be looked at from two sides. The first is likely how Emmerich intended — that this is his magnum opus. He combines elements from all of his previous big-budget extravaganzas, adding in this unique spin on the Moon. This is the very serious take.
And it has some legitimacy. Afterall, five members of NASA have consultant credits. There’s early setup dialogue that makes this planetary crisis not only interesting but borderline believable. But the deeper we get into “Moonfall”, the more outrageous and inexplicable things get. Emmerich’s commitment to this ridiculous concept (I’ll let you discover just how ridiculous on your own) is admirable, but also flat-out lunacy. Constant conveniences try to keep the action from going completely off the rails, and a few whopper explanatory scenes are dropped-in in an attempt to makes sense of everything. But it’s a losing battle.
The other way to look at “Moonfall” (the one I adopted about 30-minutes in) is as a clever, tongue-in-cheek, self-parody. And all the evidence in here: The characters, from top to bottom, are cardboard cutouts — and the performances match. Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson play former astronauts with a controversial past who must team-up again as humanity’s last hope for survival. They, and others, deliver dialogue that is so blatantly corny and preposterous it’s impossible not to laugh out loud. (A personal favorite: “You’re putting the fate of the world in the hands of your ex-wife and a has-been astronaut?!”) I heard more chuckling (even with people wearing their masks) throughout the theater during the 2 hr. 10 min. runtime than during any comedy I’ve seen in the past three years.
But here’s the thing: because this film is so positively absurd, I enjoyed myself much more than I expected or had the right to. Action sequences look cheap… plot twists are ludicrous. Donald Sutherland has a completely meaningless 90-second cameo which has to be an intentional “homage” to the tradition of having legendary actors make brief appearances in these kind of films.
And the visual effects are so not believable that, after seeing this movie, Moon Landing deniers will re-examine the iconic 1969 footage and discover, “Wow — It DOES look real.”
Finally, there’s the title. When a rom-com couple goes on a date, “Moonfall” is the film they would see — complete with big names and a ridiculous storyline.
“Moonfall” is absolutely bonkers — a highly entertaining, terrible movie. Not exactly “mission accomplished” for Emmerich — unless, of course, that’s what he was going for.