Moonfall movie review: Roland Emmerich’s new disaster film will have you rooting for the moon

Moonfall movie, image courtesy Lionsgate
Moonfall movie, image courtesy Lionsgate /

In Roland Emmerich’s new sci-fi disaster flick Moonfall, in theaters on February 4, the moon has fallen out of orbit and is heading straight for Earth. In true disaster movie fashion, the moon’s plummet creates chaos with the Earth’s gravity resulting in tsunamis, large earthquakes, erupting volcanos, and just general destruction on the third planet from the sun. A ragtag group of heroes, composed of a NASA executive, a disgraced former astronaut, and a conspiracy theorist, set out on a space mission to save all of humanity.

Emmerich is no stranger to putting the Earth in peril. Emmerich launched into stardom behind the success of his 1996 film Independence Day. Since then, he has made the potential destruction of the Earth his primary career path. Also, being the man behind the camera for 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow, and four years later, 2012.

It doesn’t take long to realize that things are not as they seem. Moonfall opens with a routine mission for astronauts Brian Harper ( Patrick Wilson ) and Jo Fowler (Halle Berry). Their mission to repair a satellite turns to tragedy when they encounter an anomaly seemingly born out of a crater on the moon, leaving one colleague sent to his death in space and Fowler unconscious. Harper makes it back to the ship in time to get himself and Fowler safely back to Earth, where no one believes his story. Leaving Harper, the disgraced former hero, and Fowler moving up the ranks in NASA.

We fast forward a decade and meet self-proclaimed Dr. K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), a megastructure conspiracy theorist who thinks he has just made the discovery of a lifetime. Houseman has found the moon knocked out of its orbit by a mysterious force and is now heading straight for Earth.

Is Moonfall big dumb fun or just big and dumb?

Moonfall movie, image courtesy Lionsgate
Moonfall movie, image courtesy Lionsgate /

Calling the plot for this bloated and unnecessarily clunky is an understatement. The story also is weighed down by family drama. Providing us with a side story of Harper and Fowler’s children who, through a series of implausible events, are now traveling together trying to outrun the chaos back on Earth while their parents deal with what is happening in space. Unfortunately, the frantic pacing within the first 45 minutes of the film doesn’t give us the time to care about any of these characters. No scene is allowed to linger longer than a few minutes before we are on to the following exposition and more clunky dialogue.

I won’t give away the twist of what caused the moon to have been knocked off its orbit, but the explanation of it is so long and tedious that it took two actors to sit through it. One seemingly tagged out halfway through for the other cause one person sitting through it would be more human suffering than any endured by the moon crash landing on Earth.

If you can sit through the first part, the final 45 minutes of Moonfall are fun and action-packed

Not all is just big and dumb; however, there is some fun to be had. As with any Emmerich disaster film, the real highlight is the destruction of Earth. In this instance, Moonfall doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of exciting set pieces showing devastating impact. As seen in the trailer, one in particular, showing a gravity wave speeding towards our protagonists and leaving destruction in its wake, matches any scene Emmerich has put on film. The final 45 minutes is a fun, action-packed ride if you can hang in for long enough to get to.

The cast also does a credible job under the circumstances. The dialogue doesn’t help this film, but Wilson, Berry, and Bradley give performances suggesting that this film could have been the blockbuster it wanted to be if everyone had been up to the task as well.

Final Verdict: Moonfall is a mindless affair primarily devoid of the fun that accompanied Emmerich’s other disaster films. Solid performances and fun set pieces are just not enough to save a movie that the plot has more craters than the moon itself. 2 out of 5 stars.

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