Moonfall-s flat on its face

The big budget box-office bomb doesn't live up to its planetary scope

Mitchell Hall
7th March 2022
Credit: IMDb
The latest Roland Emmerich release featured more disaster at the box office than in the film itself, much to Emmerich’s annoyance clearly, as he went on to blame the flurry of hyper-successful Marvel films for “Ruining our industry”.

The failure of his new ‘high-concept’ disaster film to land with audiences may be down to Emmerich falling out of touch with his audiences after a long and successful career. It is truly ironic that a director known mostly for big-budget blockbuster disaster films is attacking an apparent lack of imagination, stating “nobody does anything original anymore.”

Halle Berry And Patrick Wilson, Credit:IMDb

With that revelation, let’s look at this CGI heavy Emmerich disaster epic featuring an estranged father attempting to save the lives of his somewhat ungrateful children through unlikely connections with friends in high places, whilst conveniently being unable to save the one threat to their position as the sole father figure to their kids. Because we have never seen that from him before.

Spoilers ahead for those of you who still want to watch the film after that introduction, as this movie features a truly bizarre plot full of twists that change everything (everything in the film which we did not care about that is).

Its opening isn't actually terrible

The film’s cold open features the unforgiving vacuum of space, accompanied of course by the singing of Africa by Toto by three astronauts, little do they know they are about to be attacked by what looks like an aggressive cloud of static, sending Patrick Wilson’s character into the ship but firing his friend into the endless abyss. It’s a horrifying situation and actually not a terrible opening to the film, and as the protagonist sees the swarm burrow into the moon’s surface, I had some hope for the next two hours.

That didn’t last long, Wilson’s character (Brian Harper) ends up fired as nobody believes him, including his close colleague whose wedding we are clunkily told he attended in exposition, the betrayal it seems was meant to be built up but falls fairly flat here as Harper does his best impression of a genuinely unhinged individual, both at his own tribunal and the court appearance of his troubled son (named Sonny… yet again Emmerich showing us how originality is done) years later. This earns Sonny, played by Charlie Plummer, a trip to jail, and an understandable renewed dislike of his father.

John Bradley as K.C Houseman, Credit: IMDb

John Bradley’s comic relief character of K.C Houseman, who clearly is supposed to be loveable but is really just annoying, is a conspiracy theorist who says he has found the moon is out of orbit, which he attributes it to being a ‘Mega-structure’ and that the moon was actually made by… aliens…? So that’s where Emmerich has brought in this apparently new and exciting concept of his, it turns out the moon is an alien ship which is powered by a captured star which is being choked by the swarm, causing the moon to fall out of orbit. Of course, due to a convenient plan that had already been developed by NASA years ago, master pilot Brian Harper, his colleague who ‘betrayed’ him (Halle Berry) and internet lunatic KC Houseman, are the only ones who can save earth.

Except now the aliens aren’t aliens they’re humanity’s ancestors who formed Earth deliberately using the moon because nano technology has turned against them and nearly wiped them out on their home planet, the moon is automated because the swarm detects organic life surrounded by electrical signals, e.g. astronauts in a ship, and they wanted the moon to escape undetected. Why? Why any of this? Because this is apparently ‘high-concept.’ It is by far the worst side of the plot as they explore the moon and space together, with Harper being the only likeable character in the crew despite somehow blaming himself for the death of his colleague in space at the beginning, a death which occurred at the hands of a giant murderous space cloud which came out of nowhere and almost destroyed the ship. Patrick Wilson actually does very well with what he is given in this film overall.

The CGI and set pieces here are incredible at times

The story on Earth follows Sonny and the family of Halle Berry’s character as they attempt to cross the country to a bunker, running into Harper’s ex-wife and her new husband (Michael Pena) on the way. They face the effects of the moon messing with gravity, and honestly the CGI and set pieces here are incredible at times. This is Emmerich’s comfort zone and it shows. A film using just these moments, and the decent relationships explored between the new father and his attempts to connect with Sonny, would have been leagues ahead of this congested and confusing mess. Pena’s ultimate sacrifice hits surprisingly hard for a character who is initially presented as obnoxious and arrogant, the ingredients of a good narrative are scattered throughout the film.

In the end, everyone is ok and happy (except for those who died) and I just hope Emmerich doesn’t attempt to expand the lore into a new sci-fi franchise. I’d give the film a 4/10, but KC has a cat named Fuzz Aldrin, so that pushes it up to a 5/10 in my eyes.

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