Roland Emmerich should be called Hollywood’s Disaster King. In the 1990s, he gave us Independence Day. In the 2000s, he laid down The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. In the 2010s, he gifted us with Independence Day: Resurgence. Now that it’s a new decade, Emmerich officially stamps the 2020s with his latest disaster epic Moonfall, starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson and GOT alumni John Bradley (along with a short cameo from Donald Sutherland).
Patrick Wilson plays everyman/disgraced astronaut Brian Harper who witnesses firsthand a destructive entity that attacked his crew while in orbit above Earth. A crew member was lost in the incident but NASA used him as the scapegoat in the disaster and instead covers up evidence that said entity came from the Moon. Washed up, divorced, he spends his time fixing his muscle cars and doing the occasional gig as a children’s presenter at LA’s Griffith Park Observatory.
Meanwhile, Sam Tarly err KC Houseman (John Bradley) is a conspiracy theorist who comes across evidence that the Moon’s orbit is changing and headed towards Earth. With no one willing to listen to his theories, he sets his sights on Harper. But it isn’t until things start going awry (tsunamis, earthquakes, falling fireball debris) that Harper finally believes him.
By this time, former crew member/astronaut and acting head of NASA Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) asks for Harper’s help by rocketing up to the Moon on a retired Space Shuttle to investigate and hopefully save the world before the Moon tears the Earth apart.
While very little substance is expected from an Emmerich disaster film, Moonfall has the distinction of being his most memorable since Stargate and Independence Day MK1. As a kid, I had a dream that the moon was crashing into Earth and to see it realized via special effects on a big IMAX screen is indeed something to behold personally. Needless to say, the effects here are spectacular and deserve top billing.
Borrowing heavily from notable science fiction classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity and Mission to Mars, Moonfall rips off Emmerich’s own films (even The Patriot) with its father/son dichotomy subplot. Most of the cast is ultimately wasted especially Berry, fresh from an impressive directorial debut with 2020’s Bruised and Donald Sutherland who shows up for a minute and is gone the next.
Wilson is good as this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, an all-around American everyman, a title Nicholas Cage used to own. John Bradley provides much needed comic relief – which brings me to this…
The film never takes itself seriously for a single moment. With the dialogue having the depth of a Saturday morning cartoon, the preposterous plot taken in a more serious direction would completely sink this film to oblivion. But Moonfall treads the tides with its sense of humor, great special effects and the lack of machismo of a Michael Bay film (and that’s a good thing). Moonfall should really be considered as a major Six Flags ride. But instead of a 2-3 min experience, you get 2 whole hours (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
Review by Vince Caro