Oh, Roland Emmerich…what have you done?!
When it comes to the films of this German disaster movie maestro, generally you know what you’re going to get, for better or worse. The man basically reinvigorated the alien invasion / disaster movie genre back in 1996 with the massive summer blockbuster Independence Day (after having previously found success with big budget sci-fi pulp like Universal Soldier in ’92 and Stargate in ’94). Ever since then, with varying degrees of success, the man has continued to churn out predictable but entertaining flicks of varying quality like Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009), White House Down (2013) and Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), while also occasionally delving into more serious fare like The Patriot (2000) and Midway (2019). Moonfall is the man’s latest offering and…ouch.
When I first saw the trailers for this one, there was no surprise at all when I saw Emmerich’s name turn up in the Directed By credit, though I did wonder if he himself might be finding the huge-scale / ridiculous disaster genre starting to get a little stale, so he just decided to turn everything up to 11. I mean hell, where do you go from something apocalyptic like 2012? Well shit…just smash the moon into the Earth then. And that’s exactly what he does here.
Moonfall opens in 2011 with astronauts Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) and Halle Berry (The Last Boy Scout), along with some random ‘red shirt’, performing a satellite repair mission in Earth’s orbit (why there’s only 3 of them manning a space shuttle is a little beyond me) when they are suddenly set upon by the Smoke Monster from Lost, which inevitably fucks everything up and sends Random Red Shirt spinning off into space, doomed to die among the stars. Without showing how the undoubtedly damaged shuttle gets them back to Earth alive, we then fast forward a decade and meet ‘KC’ (John Bradley), a proto-typical nerd who happens to be a conspiracy theorist who fully believes that our moon is not exactly as it seems (a real-life theory that actually has SOME merit) and may actually be a ‘mega structure’ created by some alien intelligence. As he stumbles upon evidence that the moon’s orbit has begun to degrade, he tries to warn the authorities, who naturally can’t be bothered. At the same time, others also note the worrying change as strange, gravity-related occurrences begin happening around the world. Eventually, Wilson and Berry are pulled back in, along with ‘KC’, to literally launch a last-ditch effort to find out what’s happening and somehow stop it before we’re doomed…DOOMED, I tell you! Oh, and there’s your usual, extraneous side-plot involving Wilson’s wooden-plank moron of a son (who my wife kept referring to as “Hanson” due to his stupid-looking hair style) and some others (including a shamefully wasted Michael Pena) as they try to survive the catastrophic events befalling our little blue dot of a world.
Straight up, this movie is highly stupid, oddly cheap (amazing, given the rumored budget) and badly paced. No amount of weed (and we made sure we were baked for this one!) could help ease the anguish of having to navigate through the plodding ‘storyline’, cheesy-looking backgrounds and all the China dick-sucking (Chinese film companies are featured prominently in the opening logos) that goes down. Emmerich has been known to command substantial budgets to solid effect in the past but it’s clear that those financial resources simply weren’t available to him this time around (again astounding, with the alleged budget). Several times, we laughed out loud (while pointing mockingly at the screen) at the blatant fakeness of numerous obviously CG created backgrounds that characters (I use the term VERY loosely here) were plunked in front of. They were SO obvious that I actually found it a little shocking and it blew me away that there were SO many of them. Clearly the cash that they did have was ear-marked for the big money-shot disaster scenes, which I will admit some of which did genuinely look cool, while still being idiotic in concept.
The pacing of this flick was all over the place and given the silly idea behind it, the run-time had NO business coming in at 2 hours and 10 minutes. It legitimately felt overly long and at one point, when it was paused for a quick booze-refill / toke break, my wife exclaimed – “What?! There’s another half hour of this crap?!”. And she was right. It felt like it just kept meandering along and a big part of this was that stupid and useless-to-the-story side-plot involving the family members of our ‘heroes’ navigating through harrowing Disaster Movie trials and tribulations Earth-side. Honestly, this entire story-line could’ve been excised and actually would’ve given the flick a tighter focus and a far more palatable run-time. But nope, we get stuck for extended periods with these one-dimensional non-characters who did nothing more than unintentionally make make us laugh while unnecessarily padding out an already bloated run-time.
There’s not much more to say beyond this – as Roland Emmerich disaster films go, you’d be better served just digging up one of his previous entries for a rewatch (yes, I will actually include his deservedly maligned Godzilla in there). Moonfall is a highly stupid movie populated by the thinnest of ‘characters’ who do and say stupid shit in service of a badly plotted / edited story that is in no way believable; an aspect not helped by the healthy scattering of chuckle-inducing sub-par CG and dialogue that sounds like it was written by a 10 year old. If all you seek is scenes of wide-spread disaster, yes, there are a few that will scratch that itch but overall, I can’t count this one as being anything less than a failure, an opinion backed up by the embarrassing box office take of just over $43 million (on a rumored $150 million budget, which is astounding given how shitty some of this movie looked!).
Unless you’re a die-hard Emmerich fan or a stoner who just needs something to laugh at, I can’t really recommend Moonfall in any way. It’s as dumb as it sounds and it may even erode some of your intelligence if you make it all the way through. Just go back and watch Independence Day: Resurgence instead…it’s really not as bad as everyone says.