Released: 3rd February
Seen: 19th May
Back in the late 90s, one of the biggest names in Blockbusters was Roland Emmerich. The man made Independence Day, a film that not only showed that there was a new master of the blockbuster but also made so much goddamn money. Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996, its visuals are some of the most remembered images from 90s cinema (the shot of a single beam of light destroying the White House alone is etched into the memory of everyone who was around in 1996) and it basically elevated Will Smith into a global cinematic phenomenon… yeah, Roland Emmerich kinda fluked it with that film because he’s really never been that good since, and Moonfall is just proof that he needs a new schtick.
Moonfall fits in with the genre of Roland Emmerich films where some kind of catastrophe, usually apocalyptic in nature, causes a large cast of assorted characters to band together to do something to save the world which is almost inevitably saved by the actions of the lone weirdo who is there largely for comic relief. In this case, the apocalyptic event is that the moon has moved out of its orbit which in turn would cause greater tides, tsunamis, earthquakes and other strange weather phenomena
After some planning (and I use the term planning incredibly loosely) the only people who can save it are a pair of retired astronauts, Jacinda Fowler (Halle Berry) and Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), and a conspiracy theorist, K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), who is proven right about his theory that the moon is actually hollow, made of metal and full of weird alien creatures… oh and there’s a subplot about the families of the astronauts trying to make it to safety because god forbid Roland make a film with a central cast in the single digits.
So if you’re reading that description of the general plot and thinking “Well that sounds stupid as all hell” then you are correct, the plot is incredibly stupid which suits Moonfall because this is one of the dumbest films you will ever sit through. Some movies can handle being kind of stupid, the term “switch your brain off” is invented for movies that play fast and loose with things like physics, the law and reality (*coughcough*FastAndTheFurious*coughcough*… but those films are also fun and kinda get that they’re being dumb. Moonfall is neither of those things, it takes itself so seriously that any fun that you might have with the idea is removed. You can’t switch your brain off, you have to actively remove it in order for this to work.
Moonfall basically does everything you would expect from a Roland Emmerich film, like he’s going through a checklist of things that worked for him back in the 90s… catch is, Roland hasn’t realised that since then other people have worked out how to make entertaining popcorn films that are also actually well written and acted so his basic approach of pure bombast doesn’t work anymore, we’re numb to it. Also doesn’t help that this time the bombast isn’t as insane as it was in his film 2012 or as visually iconic as the Independence Day shots. There isn’t a single frame in this film that you could look at and call iconic, it’s not interesting enough to be that memorable.
When you don’t have the bombast to protect you, that’s when the other flaws pop up and Moonfall has a ton of flaws. It’s absolutely horribly written, without a single line of fun dialogue to latch onto. None of the characters is in any way memorable, there are a solid dozen of them in the full plot but only 3 of them actually matter to the central story. Everyone else is there cos it’s a Roland Emmerich film and therefore we must have a giant cast even when they have nothing of value to add.
The amazing thing about Moonfall is that while its plot is stupid, the longer it goes on the more convoluted it gets and the more the film has the audacity to believe it’s being smart and cool. At 2 hours long the film just pads the runtime with bullshit, stuffing it in until the seams are about to burst. By the time it gets to the conclusion you’ve been overloaded with so much confident blind stupidity that it’s practically impossible to keep up with what’s going on and any suspension of belief goes out the window, especially when the film just decides to go full Majora’s Mask and have the moon physically scraping along the earth.
There’s nothing wrong with being a cheesy B-movie that makes no damn sense. Hell, B-movies that make no damn sense are some of my favourite things but the trick is that those films also have a sense of fun to them. There’s something there to mock or enjoy because the film is being stupid and knows it… Moonfall doesn’t seem to get how stupid it is, it treats its content with the utmost seriousness which makes scenes that should be wildly entertaining into boring moments that just drag along for an interminable amount of time.
Moonfall really makes it clear that we are well beyond the point where Roland’s standard popcorn film just doesn’t work anymore, partially because we now have an entire studio dedicated to making popcorn films that do it really well (A studio that Roland has called out for making unoriginal films which is hilarious coming from a man who has made basically the same film every three years but with a light coat of paint to try and disguise that). It hurts to say that Moonfall is such a bland boring film because the idea should’ve made for a fun time but considering who made it, maybe it was doomed to be this repetitive and bland from the start.