It says a lot about the cinematic landscape in the early stages of 2022, that the one movie to truly get film fans excited and seemingly kick off the movie calendar, is the new disaster movie from veteran director Roland Emmerich. For many, Moonfall will be the exact kind of ludicrous blockbuster that they have been craving. But for anyone who prefers their action movies to be more grounded and gritty, Moonfall will sorely disappoint.
The science fiction movie wastes no time in setting up the catastrophic events that are set to unfold. Within the opening five minutes, our protagonists, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) are immediately plunged into the eye of the storm, as it were, and Emmerich doesn’t let up from there on out. You might think that’s a good thing, but what ensues can only be described as a frantic mess.
Nevertheless, there are some moments of merit among the chaos. The balance between laughing at the movie, or with the movie, is a fine line to tread, but the latter does occur fairly regularly. And, credit where credit’s due, I firmly believe Emmerich and his team achieved exactly what they set out to achieve. Whether that equates to a good movie or not, however, is a different matter.
For a film clocking in at just over two hours, and one which starts at such a blistering speed, it’s a shame that this energy doesn’t quite propel the film beyond its opening act. We learn of the impending danger of the moon’s rapidly-changing orbit after roughly 15 minutes, and then a flurry of floods, earthquakes, and crime, quickly follow.
Sadly, from this point, to the actual “fight the moon” moment we are promised, we endure an arduous slog of a second act, riddled with questionable science, soap-opera melodramatics, and a mass of stilted exposition dump. The poor pacing of the movie, in general, suggests that Emmerich, who also penned the screenplay, had a very clear beginning and end to his story, but ran out of ideas in the middle.
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Speaking of screenplays, the dialogue here is far from convincing, and given the talents of Berry and Wilson in general, I would argue that this is down to the writing rather than the delivery. The moments of comedic relief scattered throughout are largely inconsistent, particularly those given to Game of Thrones actor John Bradley, who dials up his performance to soap-opera standards in his role as K.C Houseman, and is one of the most jarring aspects of the movie overall.
I’m sure most people who are looking forward to Moonfall aren’t exactly going to be demanding compelling dialogue or award-worthy performances. Indeed, the cheesy, schlocky approach is usually the way to go for movies of this ilk, but I do feel that the lacklustre nature of the writing and the acting here seriously undermines the scale of the titular disaster.
The time we spend with Harper, Fowler, and Houseman, however, does at least offer some genuinely fun chemistry, and the trio’s dynamic, especially when they head into outer space, is one of the few redeeming features of the film. Horror movie icon Patrick Wilson is as charming as ever, and arguably comes away from Moonfall with his reputation relatively unharmed. Halle Berry is more fallible, with some of her more emotional moments falling flat, but generally speaking, she is a solid presence.
These compliments do not extend to the families of the main characters, though. Between Harper’s teenage son, the rebellious Sonny (Charlie Plummer), and Fowler’s ex-husband, Doug Davidson (Eme Ikwaukor), we are treated to the full spectrum of human emotion. While Plummer graces the screen with an apathy that suggests he really didn’t want to be there, Ikwaukor gives every single one of his lines the kind of over-the-top gusto one would expect from a performer who definitely wants you to know he is a serious actor.
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I would imagine those who have been eagerly anticipating this movie are mainly hoping for one thing; big, bombastic, destructive set pieces. On that front, Moonfall certainly delivers. There’s plenty of perilous situations, huge explosions, and all-out action, both on Earth and in space. Despite my criticisms, if there’s one thing Roland Emmerich knows how to do, it’s blowing stuff up.
From a visual point of view, Moonfall is something of a mixed bag. When we are off-planet, and on the moon itself, the vast expanse of space is depicted rather brilliantly, with the deep black and vivid blue contrasted effectively. The production design is arguably one of the film’s strongest elements too, particularly when we finally delve below the surface of the moon, and explore the sleek, Kubrickian space base.
However, when we are back on Earth, the standard of aesthetics drops significantly. The quality of the CGI is incredibly poor, with even the simplest settings having a distinctly false feeling to them. It’s bizarre how two people standing in a concrete-clad, industrial area, or a car driving through snow, can look less realistic than astronauts floating through space. With a reported budget of $140m, the visual effects really should not look like they’re from the ‘90s, but here we are.
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Arguably, that is exactly what Moonfall is deep down; a mindless throwback from a bygone era. We know Emmerich wanted to make a meteor disaster movie before the millennium, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the story from that idea has found its way into the Moonfall script. The concept is certainly an interesting one, but the end product is ultimately a haphazard amalgamation of some of the most overused elements from a sub-genre that has little room left for originality.
Moonfall is disappointing, even by the low expectations I had placed upon it. It’s harmless, sure, and it does have its moments of fun. But, more often than not, I found myself rolling my eyes, as the movie fails in one aspect or another at almost every turn. Emmerich may want a trilogy of Moonfall films, but I think one is more than enough.
Moonfall is in theatres from February 3, 2022.
A big, dumb, messy blockbuster that will divide audiences with its tongue-in-cheek approach.