Saturday, March 9, 2024

#2,949. Moonfall (2022) - Roland Emmerich Film Festival


Neil deGrasse Tyson is one very, very smart dude. Having studied at Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton, he is the world’s foremost Astrophysicist. He’s penned a number of books, researched everything from cosmology to stellar evolution, and holds well over 20 honorary degrees. In 2001 President George W. Bush even appointed Tyson to a Commission tasked with laying out the future of the United States Aerospace Industry

In short, the guy knows his stuff, especially when it comes to physics and outer space. So, when Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October of 2023 and said Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall violated more laws of physics per minute than any other science fiction movie he’d ever seen, you can bet it’s the truth.

But then, Roland Emmerich also made The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, neither of which are known for their scientific accuracy. And let’s face it: a movie about the moon breaking orbit and hurtling towards earth is gonna require more than the usual “suspension of disbelief”.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a man of science. Roland Emmerich is a showman, and Moonfall, as insane and unscientific as it may be, is, first and foremost, entertainment. On that level, it is at least somewhat successful.

That said, there are characters and scenes scattered throughout Moonfall that had me longing for the subtlety of The Day After Tomorrow!

Eleven years after an accident in space was blamed on his “human error”, former astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) has been struggling to make ends meet. Divorced from his wife Brenda (Carolina Bartczak) and estranged from his son (Charlie Plummer), Harper continues to insist he did nothing wrong that fateful day aboard the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately, nobody believes him. Not even his former friend and colleague, Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), who is now the Deputy Director of NASA.

Then something incredible happens: conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), leader of a small group that’s convinced the moon is not a planetary body but an alien-built megastructure, determines that the moon has changed its orbit, and is moving closer to earth.

Initially dismissing Houseman as a crackpot, Harper is stunned to discover NASA has also noticed the orbital discrepancies. What’s more, there’s a strong possibility the trouble is being caused by alien technology, which has altered the moon’s trajectory and put it on a collision course with earth!

As with most of his movies, Emmerich generates some genuine excitement and impressive destruction throughout Moonfall, with tidal shifts flooding out coastal towns and loose fragments from the approaching moon crashing to earth, leveling entire cities. There is also a plot twist in the last half hour or so that leaves little doubt what we’re watching (and what Emmerich intended) is straight-up science fiction, with no footing in reality whatsoever.

As for the characters, I did enjoy John Bradley’s turn as Houseman, a guy who hasn’t achieved much in life and is struggling to care for his mother (Kathleen Fee), who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As for Wilson and Berry, Moonfall is far from their finest hour. Wilson isn’t particularly likable through much of the film, with his Harper coming off as moody and kind of arrogant; while Berry doesn’t seem to be putting her heart into it at all. A few supporting players, including Michael Pena as Brenda’s new husband and Kelly Yu as Michelle, an exchange student acting as nanny for Fowler’s son Jimmy (Zayn Maloney), fare better than the main stars.

Yet the real stinker in Moonfall is its script, written by Emmerich, Harald Kloser, and Spenser Cohen. Along with its plethora of far-fetched situations, the dialogue is obvious and trite, and somne of the secondary characters are as one-dimensional as they come (worst of all being NASA Director Albert Hutchings, played by Stephen Bogaert, who is the typical “movie” official, i.e. – unreasonable, deceitful, and cowardly).

Bottom line: I didn’t go into Moonfall expecting to learn anything about space or science. I wanted a fun disaster movie, with decent special effects and a whole lot of destruction.

And it’s a good thing that’s all I wanted, because that’s all I got! If it was intriguing dialogue or believable characters I was after, I would have been as disappointed as Neil deGrasse Tyson!
Rating: 5 out of 10

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