Feb 5, 2022 | Posted by in Movies

The Moon’s orbit shifts, sending it on a collision course with Earth and threatening to wipe out all life in Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall.

Roland Emmerich helped define the massive destruction blockbuster era that we still inhabit. Films like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow were sold on the destruction of recognisable monuments and apocalyptic stakes. As time went on the blockbuster landscape shifted in the direction of superheroes retaining the property damage but possibly imbuing it with a bit more substance. One of the questions surrounding this film is whether there’s a place for a straightforward disaster flick with a high concept premise to carry it.


Their reaction to reading the script

The concept of the Moon falling out of orbit and hitting the Earth is easy to understand as a threat. It’s self evident that it would be a very bad thing and it provides an excuse for escalating destruction through gravity manipulation as the satellite gets closer. There is an explanation for why it’s happening that has the potential to be a fun if ridiculous science fiction concept but for much of the film it doesn’t seem to be that important. It’s all about the set pieces and the ticking clock with the plot sitting firmly in the background.

Emmerich films famously deployed a large cast reacting to the threat and pulling together to deal with it. Moonfall is different in that its world feels empty. Other examples of his work may have been light on characterisation due to the absurdly large cast but they undeniably sold the scope of the problem by showing the impact on different people on a global scale. This film focuses on a small group of characters who are relatively close to one another geographically. The shallow characterisation remains but the scope is lost.

Moonfall follows disgraced astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), former astronaut and acting director of NASA, Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) and wannabe scientist who notices the Moon’s orbital shift before NASA do, KC Houseman (John Bradley). Brian’s son, Sonny (Charlie Plummer), his mother Brenda (Carolina Bartczak) and stepfather Tom (Michael Peña) have their own loosely connected plot with a few others weaving in and out as the film progresses. Nothing about any of these characters stand out beyond their defined roles in the film so it’s almost impossible to invest in the survival of any of them. Dialogue delivers precisely what is needed from a given interaction and no more so the audience is told that Brian loves his son or that KC is a laughing stock because of his outlandish theories but there’s no texture or substance to the conversations people have so they come across as blandly furthering the plot rather than developing characters. This in turn gives gifted actors like Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry very little to work with and makes the experience feel flat and lifeless.


What a mess

The set pieces are frustratingly few and far between with most of the film occupied by people moving between locations to have repetitive conversations. When the set pieces come they are competent but the shallow characterisation renders them devoid of any kind of emotional impact. The spectacle is fine but it’s undeniably empty and the obvious green screen divorces it from the people supposedly caught up in the chaos. There’s also an inescapable familiarity to these sequence making them derivative rather than blazing any sort of trail. Blockbuster cinema has reached a point where truly impressive spectacle is increasingly more challenging to deliver and this film fails to do so. The usual problems of physics only impacting what the sequence needs it to in order to generate peril among others are to be found everywhere.

This film builds itself around the mystery of why the Moon is suddenly hurtling towards Earth and what secrets may be hidden beneath its surface. Constant references to this mystery help keep the momentum going. To its credit, Moonfall never stops for long enough to become boring even though much of what is depicted isn’t all that interesting. Its momentum prevents something from lingering long enough for the required thought to be put into it meaning the overall experience washes over the viewer. The promise of answering the questions it poses allows for some engagement in the plot and the lunacy to be found in the third act with the quick explanations followed by a conclusion that completely falls apart if any logical thought is applied to it. The same can be said about the film as a whole but it is somewhat redeemed by the entertaining climax requiring the viewer ignore their doubts in order to enjoy it. It’s dumb and unashamedly so which has some merit.


A navigational nightmare


An unashamedly dumb, intermittently entertaining experience with spectacle that fails to innovate or stand out and painfully shallow characterisation. A big problem is that there’s a real emptiness to the world this film inhabits which makes it almost impossible to invest in anything that is happening. The thin characterisation combined with workmanlike dialogue prevents audience connection and gives talented performers very little to work with. The set pieces are fine but overly familiar and are too distanced from the people supposedly impacted by them. The mystery at its core helps maintain the momentum and It does redeem itself somewhat with the lunacy in the third act but enjoyment does require silencing the brain. It’s dumb and unashamedly so which has some merit.

  • Moonfall


Kneel Before…

  • the mystery maintaining the moment of the plot
  • the entertaining third act
  • competent spectacle


Rise Against…

  • painfully shallow characterisation
  • dialogue that delivers nothing more than what is required in a given interaction
  • the empty world
  • a lack of connection between the set pieces and the characters involved in them


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User Review
5 (1 vote)

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