Film review #573
Director: Roland Emmerich
SYNOPSIS: K.C. Houseman, a conspiracy theorist, uses a research telescope to confirm his suspicions that the moon’s orbit is changing and moving closer to Earth, and will eventually collide with it. NASA eventually confirm the findings and mass panic ensues. They send a rocket up to the moon to investigate, but the shuttle is attacked by a mysterious entity. Brian, an astronaut who was fired in disgrace after a space mission he was on was similarly attacked and no one believed him, leaving his reputation destroyed, is now tasked with one more mission to try and stop the moon from destroying the Earth…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Moonfall is a 2022 sci-fi disaster film. The plot, unsurprisingly, revolves around the moon falling to Earth. Conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman, who believes that the moon is a artificial superstructure, and its orbit is decaying. It turns out he is right, and when NASA confirms it, mass panic sets in across the world. A shuttle mission to investigate the moon is attacked by a strange entity, and destroyed. It turns out to be the same entity former astronaut Brian Harper claimed attacked his mission ten years before, but as no one believed him, and was sacked and his reputation tarnished. His former crewmate Jocinda Fowler, who is now deputy director of NASA, recruits him to lead one more mission to the moon to try and correct the moon’s orbit before it collides with the Earth. The film is quite simply a combination of the films Armageddon and Independence Day. In fact, the director Roland Emmerich also directed the latter, so I’m pretty sure it was deliberate. The realism of a disaster film just doesn’t work well with the plot about aliens and rogue AI and whatnot, and a lot of stuff is just skimmed over. A lot of the plot points make very little sense, such as why the A.I….thing would just hide in the moon and try to bring it down, rather than attack the planet directly if that it was aiming to do. There doesn’t feel like there’s much of an attempt for the film to carve out its own identity, rather just picking bits from what previous films have done successfully. Then again, the sheer cheesiness of the plot and setups might make for mindless, entertaining viewing, but it’s definitely hard to take it seriously.
The characters are all fairly cookie-cutter with nothing really distinguishable. Brian and Jocinda are just very standard lead roles, and K.C. Houseman provides the comic relief with one-liners that aren’t memorable or really funny. The trailer for the film has him respond with a quip after every scene or serious moment without rest, and while it’s okay to lighten the mood once in a while, doing this constantly really stops the suspense and story dead in its tracks. The characters also have their own families who are trying to get to safety, providing a perspective from “ordinary” people on the disaster that is unfolding: again, just like Independence Day. None of these characters stand out in particular, and their scenes feel like they’re there to pad out the runtime. With the film coming in over two hours and ten minutes, the film definitely feels padded.
When the mission makes it to the inside of the Moon, they discover the inside is a Dyson Sphere: a man made structure with a white dwarf star housed inside to power it. We are also treated to a lengthy exposition about how humans once existed on another planet but were destroyed by a rogue A.I., so these superstructures were sent to potential habitable planets to populate them with the DNA of human life, but the A.I. thing (I don’t really know what it is) has now found Earth and is causing the moon to fall to destroy the humans. It’s nothing you haven’t heard or seen before, and lumping in all this stuff near the end does detract from the disaster theme a little. The ending feels like it’s very much on auto-pilot, as Brian encounters a “good A.I.” or something, and somehow now knows how to pilot around the superstructure to destroy the bad A.I., which ruins any kind of tension in the climax. In terms of effects and CG, it’s actually not too bad: you get a good sense of the scale of destruction in the landscape shots, but the effects of the Moon’s effect on gravity is entirely inconsistent throughout, and it can mostly be explained away as it’s for the purpose of the plot. Anyway, Moonfall is a mash-up of what you’ve seen before, with Roland Emmerich doing exactly what you expect in producing an over-the-top disaster film with a very typical cast of characters. It’s plot is all over the place, and is completely implausible most of the time. It is a brainless, cheesy sci-fi film that may serve as a silly ride that might entertain, but you’re going to struggle to believe anything in the movie is plausible.