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When the moon drops from the sky and we’re all gonna die, that’s a ‘Moonfall’

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There’s something to be said for filmmakers who have a gift for creating a certain type of movie. Sure, these directors and writers can and do produce work outside that area of expertise, but even as they spread their wings, there’s no doubt that they have a space in which they can become the best versions of themselves.

Roland Emmerich is one of those filmmakers.

Seriously, is there anyone out there who can hang with Emmerich when it comes to big-budget movies revolving around ludicrous, over-the-top disasters? Is there anyone else even in the conversation? I’d say not. Sure, he can do other stuff and do it fairly well, but nothing tops Emmerich when he’s placing the world in existential peril.

And so, it’s always a hoot when we get a new entry into that particular canon. His latest is “Moonfall,” which he directed from a script he co-wrote with Spenser Cohen and Harald Kloser (who also did the score). It is as deliriously dumb as the very best of his movies have been in recent years, a sci-fi action film based on a ridiculous premise and made with a nine-figure budget.

Seriously – this movie doesn’t make a lick of sense. It is packed with questionable decisions and incoherent action. There are SO MANY PLOTLINES, and just when it seems like the narrative threads are coming together, more tendrils are sent spiraling outward. Just an absolute bonkers mess.

It is lunacy and I am here for it.

In 2011, astronauts are attempting to repair a satellite in orbit. All is going according to plan until a mysterious swarm attacks both the space shuttle and the astronauts attempting the repairs. The impact with the shuttle incapacitates Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), who is inside. Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) is struck by the swarm, but his tether pulls him back to the shuttle; however, the third astronaut is pushed away and ultimately lost in space.

In the inquiry that follows, no one believes Harper’s account of what took place. Even Fowler, his longtime friend, is unable to corroborate the account; the end result is that Harper is forced out of NASA in disgrace, with the blame for his colleague’s demise placed solely on him.

Ten years later, Fowler is second-in-command at NASA; she’s divorced from her husband Doug (Eme Ikwuakor) and has a young son. Harper is also divorced from his wife Brenda (Carolina Bartczak); she’s remarried to Tom Lopez (Michael Pena) with two daughters, though her now-grown son Sonny (Charlie Plummer) has never repaired his relationship with Harper.

In addition, we meet K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), a self-taught astrophysicist and conspiracy theorist who believes that the moon is in fact an alien-built megastructure. Via some questionably-obtained telescopic data, Houseman discovers that the moon has shifted in its orbit – something that has ostensibly never happened. He tries to get anyone to listen to him, but he’s dismissed as a crackpot. Then it turns out that NASA has ALSO discovered that the moon has shifted in its orbit; that orbital degradation could well mean the end of life as we know it.

Word gets out, because of course it does, so there’s a worldwide panic. Assorted plans are conceived and then scrapped, all while the moon’s increased proximity does increasingly crazy things to the Earth’s surface. And wouldn’t you know it? The crazy guy and the disgraced astronaut wind up teamed up, only to be brought into the fold by Fowler in a last-ditch effort to save humanity.

And it only gets crazier from there.

That probably seems like a fair amount of synopsis, but the truth is that this narrative splits so many times that we’re not even close. There are multiple storylines playing out constantly, and even when they seem concluded, we just get more subplots. It’s a jumbled disaster of a disaster movie.

And yet … it sure is a good time.

The key with “Moonfall” is to simply let it wash over you. Don’t expect what you’re seeing to make sense or maintain any sort of real consistency from moment to moment. Just flip the critical thinking switch in your brain to off and enjoy the ride.

Because make no mistake – “Moonfall” is a RIDE. Not that that should surprise us, of course. Roland Emmerich has been making these sorts of explosively nonsensical sci-fi world-enders for coming up on three decades now. He knows what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is constructing big-budget popcorn fare that does not hold up under any real scrutiny but that is nevertheless entertaining in the moment. He’s not here to challenge you intellectually or emotionally. He’s here to put the planet in danger and blow stuff up.

Mission accomplished.

Emmerich has a real gift for constructing massive action set pieces, a gift he puts to good use here, whether we’re dealing with the moon itself or with how it’s effecting the Earth. Obviously, none of it has more than a passing relationship with physical or other scientific laws as we understand them, but it’s Roland Emmerich – we knew what we were signing up for.

The temptation to try to be cool or self-aware must be huge in these sorts of movies, but everyone largely resists. They all know what “Moonfall” is, but they resist the urge to wink at us. They play it straight, which makes it all the more amusing (in a good way). Wilson is a perfect fit as an Emmerich leading man – a truth-teller disgraced for that truth. Berry is a nice counterpoint, the establishment figure. The two of them are solid together. Bradley is quite good as well; these comic relief roles can be insufferable, but he does great work with it. The rest of the cast is fine, though the Plummer-led family-based subplots don’t really hold together. Oh, and Donald Sutherland shows up for one scene as the guy in the basement with all the secrets and he is clearly having an absolute blast.

“Moonfall” is a big dumb popcorn-muncher of a movie … and I mean that in a good way. Don’t try to make it make sense and you’ll have a good time. I know I did.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 07 February 2022 11:10

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