Moonfall is the most preposterous movie that Roland Emmerich has ever made. Remember, this is the same director who destroyed an alien army with a computer virus and Randy Quaid’s ace flying skills. He also had global warming usher in a new ice age over a few days. Then just when we thought Emmerich had topped himself, he ended the world in 2012. As we all now know, that wouldn’t happen until 2020. Even outside of the disaster genre, Shakespeare was outed as a fraud in Emmerich’s Anonymous. This guy has set the bar pretty high for ludicrously, but Moonfall goes to the silliest places while maintaining a straight face. It’s not technically good, but it does fall somewhere between hilariously entertaining and entertainingly dumb.
Over the years, we’ve seen comets and asteroids collide towards Earth. Emmerich pulls a Thanos with the Moon heading for our planet. This looks like a job for the disgraced astronaut nobody believed in (Patrick Wilson), the “strong female character” (Halle Berry), and the goofy conspiracy theorist who was right all along (John Bradley). But hey, why stop there? We can pack in even more archetypes that are in every Emmerich production. A rebellious son, an ex-wife, an ex-husband, one to three adorable children, redneck villains, incompetent authority figures, the mysterious old man who’s sitting in the shadows for some reason. Oh, and let’s not forget Michael Peña as the stepfather who works in A LOT of product placement for Lexus. There’s a death-defying blizzard/earthquake chase in the 2022 Lexus NX. The only thing missing is the slogan, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection!”
That’s not even the most ridiculous moment in Moonfall. Through a series of contrivances, Wilson, Berry, and Bradley are sent into space in an old shuttle they got from a museum. Bradley’s character isn’t a trained astronaut, a doctor, or an oil driller, yet doesn’t even endure motion sickness. As they launch, a tidal wave crashes towards the shuttle. Strange how nobody saw a wave so massive coming beforehand. Nevertheless, will the shuttle make it into orbit as the water engulfs all of its surroundings? Rest assured, whatever this movie throws at our heroes, they’ll be fine. That is unless one of them wants to make a noble sacrifice.
The first half of Moonfall is full of absurd, albeit kind of fun, moments like this. Once our heroes make it to the Moon, the film becomes a different kind of crazy. How crazy without going into spoilers? Imagine 2001: A Space Odyssey if it were directed by… well, the same person behind Stargate, 10,000 BC, and 1998’s Godzilla. What starts as a traditionally dumb disaster movie suddenly starts taking itself as seriously as The Matrix movies. There are even moments that rival the pretentiousness of the Architect scene. We’ve seen Emmerich go off the rails, but never quite like this.
In good conscience, I can’t give Moonfall more than two stars. The cast turns in universally commendable performances. The effects, while over-reliant on CGI, are inventive nonetheless. The script is as messy as the science, though. I’d say turn off your brain, but that’s hard to do when you’re constantly being bombarded with exposition. The film ultimately can’t decide what it wants to be: stupid or smart, although it’s definitely not the latter. Yet, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fun seeing Emmerich go for broke. In that sense, I’d recommend Moonfall for anyone who’s in the right frame of mind. However, between legitimately good disaster movies like Greenland and ambitious spins on the genre like Don’t Look Up, Moonfall falls short.