Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Reilly, Michael Peña, Donald Sutherland, Eme Ikwuakor, Carolina Bartczak, Zayn Maloney, Ava Weiss, Hazel Nugent, Chris Sandiford, Jonathan Silver, Stephen Bogaert, Maxim Roy, Ryan Bommarito, Kathleen Fee, and Frank Schorpion.
A mysterious force knocks the moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it.
Forget the moon being thrown off its axis (or whatever nonsense screenwriters Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen have vomited onto the page alongside disaster flick obsessed Roland Emmerich); Moonfall itself is thrown off its axis not even five minutes in. During a prologue set in 2011, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda ‘Jo’ Fowler (Halle Berry) handle routine space work before tragedy strikes and derails the former’s astronautical career. That’s also right before they debate the correct lyrics to Toto’s jukebox favorite Africa in a scene that comes across like the role of Brian was initially intended for someone more proven when it comes to action-comedy that probably turned the project down before making it to the end of page 10.
None of the above is a knock against Patrick Wilson or Halle Berry; there is no redeeming a story this outrageously, relentlessly idiotic. When Roland Emmerich reveals that alien technology is living inside the moon (there are generic swarms of black nanotechnology flying and charging into characters) early on, you start bracing yourself, aware that’s only just a taste of the absurdity to come. Also, this is not the fun kind of insanity, as it’s actually rather cliché. It’s an amalgamation of everything Roland Emmerich has made a filmmaking career off of (think Independence Day meets 2012) smashed into a never-ending buffet of stupidity.
In a move of questionable implications, the third wheel protagonist of Moonfall is not an astronaut or even an employee of NASA, but rather conspiracy theorist KC (played by the charismatic John Bradley of Game of Thrones fame), impersonating doctors and scientists (in reality, he juggles multiple jobs such as a janitor and fast-food drive-thru’s) trying to get the word out to people of considerable power that the moon is something referred to as a mega-structure (I will go insane if I hear this term one more time) that’s going to crash into Earth.
To John Bradley’s credit, he knows the character is a joke (and at times, so does the script) that happens to be right in his crackpot research, and also how to play this for comedic effect while also being likable as an everyday working man with something gravely important to tell NASA. The issue is that a conspiracy theorist holds the information that all of society should be listening to in this day and age. As such, the filmmakers can’t decide whether to make him a punchline or a hero, inevitably and misguidedly settling on both. Also, I don’t mean clever comedy; all jokes here are awful, especially lowbrow stereotypical humor involving KC announcing he has irritable bowel syndrome before going up into space or a cat named… wait for it, Fuzz Aldrin.
Keep in mind these are just three characters in Moonfall, which can’t resist dedicating chunks of time to the personal lives of each hero. Brian had a falling out with his family following the initial incident that even his friends are convinced was human error and not something extraterrestrial, Jo is now a single mother working with her military ex-husband to keep her son safe during all the chaos (alongside a Chinese babysitter that feels included to satisfy backers Tencent rather than for artistic integrity or genuine inclusivity), and KC regularly visits his mom progressively worsening with dementia (a shameless move for lazy emotional manipulation).
While the trio of heroes are in space trying to execute the last resort mission of setting off an EMP bomb (if I’m slightly wrong, at least trust me that the details don’t matter here) on the moon to get rid of the alien technology (what the hell am I even typing right now), Brian’s 18-year-old problem child Sonny (Charlie Plummer in his first major role, and you know what, him getting paid after putting in exceptional work on the independent scene might be the only good thing to come out of Moonfall) escorts various other supporting characters to safety. This is primarily an excuse for a hackneyed look at society breaking down (looting, killing, carjacking) while pieces of the moon crashland into Earth, causing tsunamis and the usual Roland Emmerich destruction. None of it is inventive or exhilarating, as it’s all just a mess of CGI and green screens that once again mistake excess for skill. More bafflingly, primary characters are somehow secure and able to get all over the country despite such obscene peril.
One would also assume that once Moonfall is done with its lighthearted and jokey set up for the ensuing catastrophe, the proceedings might become immersive as these characters are placed into danger. Somehow, Moonfall only gets more boring the longer it goes on and the more serious it becomes, which is impressive considering some of the batshit nutty reveals on the moon itself. Monotone color palettes and bland CGI could also be attributed to this lack of excitement, even when the story barrels toward its crosscutting climax of interplanetary doomsday. Admittedly, there are brief bursts of amusing lunacy, and John Bradley nonetheless livens up the screen, but Moonfall is otherwise tryhard craziness that rarely excites. The weight of its failure to accomplish anything it sets out to do could probably crush the Earth.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com