MOONFALL zero stars
2022, PG-13, 130 mins.
Halle Berry as Jo Fowler / Patrick Wilson as Brian Harper / John Bradley as K.C. Houseman / Michael Peņa as Tom Lopez / Charlie Plummer as Sonny Harper / Donald Sutherland as Holdenfield / Eme Ikwuakor as Doug DavidsonDirected by Roland Emmerich / Written by Harald Kloser, Spenser Cohen, and Emmerich
For the absolutely hypersensitive when it comes to spoiler culture...consider yourself warned...
MOONFALL is not a movie. It's a dreadful how-did-this-get-made accident masquerading as a movie.
I doubt that
there exists any scientific instruments on the planet that could
accurately measure just how galactically awful this new Roland Emmerich
sci-fi disaster film is, other than to relay my own personal experience of
watching it via Amazon Prime last week (remember, this received no
Canadian theatrical release despite being ironically shot in Canada, more
on that later): I was just 30 minutes into my stream and I was thoroughly
convinced that I was watching the most idiotically scripted disaster
picture of my life. MOONFALL
comes across like an Ed Wood Jr. film made on a $140 million budget.
The best thing it contains is a cute cat affectionately named Fuzz
Aldrin. Beyond this cute
astronaut referenced fur baby, MOONFALL is a laughable abomination.
But wait, you
might be saying, haven't I been an apologist of Emmerich's disaster film
catalogue over the years? The answer is yes, I have. His career hit popular pay dirt with 1996's INDEPENDENCE
DAY (which merged the flying saucer invasion picture with the
disaster genre) that later moved into such planet-decimating porn like THE
DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2012 (both of
which I thought were hoots). Sitting
through MOONFALL, however, made me increasingly less forgiving of this man
going back to the proverbial well, mostly because I found myself simply
laughing at it as opposed to with it.
This is a triple crown offender: (1) It has stillborn performances
from some respectfully talented stars that look hopelessly bored, (2) The
scientific (ha!) dialogue they have to utter is nonsensical hogwash of the
highest order (mostly because the film heavily dabbles into preposterous
conspiracy theories) and (3) the VFX here range from serviceable to
wretched, which is something that I usually would never attribute to an
Emmerich disaster flick. MOONFALL
is said to be the most expensive independently financed film ever made
(yes, even more so than the STAR
WARS prequel films), but more often than not it looks like a cheap
and disposable direct to video effort.
And that's kind of mind blowing, all things considered.
by introducing us to a pair of astronauts on a routine mission: Jo Fowler
(Halle Berry, giving one of her stiffest performances ever) and Brian
Harper (Patrick Wilson, faring a bit better, but looking mostly
otherworldly and apparently extraterrestrial hits their ship, and the plot
then abruptly flash forwards ten years to show the aftermath: Jo has
somehow become a higher up at NASA, whereas Brian became disgraced after
the unexplained incident and is a petty drunk estranged from his former
employer and family. Fate
steps in when it appears that the moon has astonishingly shifted its orbit
and is on a collision course with Earth.
While the collective brain matter at NASA are struggling to
understand what is causing this potential planet-destroying phenomenon, a
lowly conspiracy theorist named K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) thinks he
knows what's happening: It's
his hypothesis that the Moon is not a natural body, but rather a Death
Star-esque manufactured satellite (I kid you not) that's hollow inside and
housing a captive white dwarf star to give it energy.
K.C. also claims that NASA
has been keeping this all a secret since the original Moon landings, for
fear of inspiring mass panic back home that the Moon is just a man-made
Anyhoo', Jo and
her team deduce that a solution could save the planet and shift the Moon
back into its normal orbit (it involves nuking it, which doesn't sound
like a great idea, under the circumstances), but she can only go on this
mission if her former BFF and wingman in Brian tags along (oh...and
because he has befriended that whack-job conspiracy theorist, guess who
also gets to suit up to blast into outer space with them?).
For reasons far too head spinningly inane to comprehend, Jo, Brain
and K.C. journey to the Moon to discover its secrets and save the world,
all while we get to witness the plucky misadventures of Brian's criminal
teen son in Sonny (Charlie Plummer) alongside Jo's young son and his
foreign exchange student nanny (wait...what!?) trying to navigate their
way to safety while the planet is literally going towards an Alderaan-like
fate because the Moon is sooooooo dangerously close.
Okay, let's talk
about that latter subplot, which battles for screentime with the main
story arc of Brain and his team hurdling towards the Moon.
I howled incredulously as the astronauts steal an old space shuttle
from a museum and get it back in working order in no time flat
(yup...sure...uh huh). Once
they manage to get into space the film denotes an unbearable amount of
time on Sonny taking command of a Hummer with his two new friends in tow
as he tries to steer his way around the apocalyptic events that are now
being unleashed on the planet (Moon debris comes crashing down to Earth
with impacts that would make the Hiroshima A-bomb look like a fire
cracker). Oh, beyond trying
to save their collective lives from this Moon debris, Sonny and his new
surrogate family also have to face off against angry thugs that want their
vehicle. To say that I cared
so very little for Sonny and his allies during this chunk of the film
would be a grand understatement, which is not assisted by the character
development and dynamics that are completely D.O.A. here.
Plummer in particular looks, well, stoned through much of the film;
he's just totally blank faced and doll eyed, and not much else.
When he does reunite with his dad at one point in the story it's
about as dramatically lifeless of a father/son moment as I've ever
experience in a film.
get all of the performance blame. Both
Wilson and Berry (both proven to be capable of giving Oscar caliber
performances in their career, with one actually winning a trophy) are so
painfully phoning in their acting here that you never once buy their
reactions to this nightmarish predicament (it's also telling that most of
the human beings in this film have shockingly nonchalant reactions to hell
literally erupting on earth). The
dialogue these "smart" characters share is stunningly bad, like
"Everything we know about the known universe has just gone out the
window" to "The planet has suffered five extinctions...this is
going to be the sixth!" to "We must move to higher ground, it's
the only possible chance of surviving!"
Yikes. It's like the
writing is ripped straight from the Tommy Wiseau playbook.
Of course, we get the annoying comic relief in what the film thinks
is the endearing conspiracy theorist in K.C., and I will say that the
British actor gives the most animated performance in the whole film.
But maybe - just maybe - this is not the correct time in history to
be making a loose cannoned conspiracy theorist and arm-chair Internet
scientist the hero of an end of the world film?
only thing that could have saved MOONFALL from complete qualitative
freefall is its visual effects and action set pieces, but everything here
looks so half hearted and mediocre, especially considering its massive
budget ($140 million is not chump change).
When you watch the similar destruction mayhem in Emmerich's past
films (even ones from decades ago) they came off as infinitely more
convincing than what we're giving here.
To be fair, MOONFALL was a COVID-19 shot disaster picture, which
obviously is why Montreal greenscreen stages were so poorly doubled for
Colorado locales (that, and one car chase sequence set in that state's
snow covered terrain looks like a poorly rendered video game cut scene
from twenty years ago).
The city destruction montages here have no sizeable weight or
grandeur either; it's more numbing than frighteningly exciting.
Perhaps the silliest VFX moment of any film of recent memory occurs
when the heroes' stolen Space Shuttle tries to blast off just as a
skyscraper sized tidal wave bares down on them.
I appreciate the ludicrous ambition of a cockamamie moment like
this, but it's all played as serious as a heart attack and the low-tier
CGI work here leaves a lot to be desired.
One last thing in closing. Mongrel Media here in Canada publicly stated that it was too risky to release this film here a few months back because of our then COVID wave led to cinemas in the most populist provinces being closed down. I call B.S. on that, mostly because other high marquee films were being released around the same time (that, and a movie of this scale and cost has never been denied a release in the Great White North before). I think the distributor knew the kind of putrid film that they had on their hands and felt that it was unreleasable and probably box office poison, so their chosen course of action was essentially...yeah, why ever bother.Why bother with MOONFALL, indeed.