Few have made a career out of a specialty like Roland Emmerich has. Of course, his crowning achievement is Independence Day, but no one destroys Earth like he does. So, doing it again with Moonfall should be cause for some degree of celebration. The marketing was initially promising too, at least with the premise. However, the more that was revealed, the less excited one seemed to get. Well, that was a harbinger of what was to come, since this is one of the worst films of the year so far. I’ll steer clear of spoilers and let you discover the “surprises” this movie has in store for you, but underwhelming is the word of the day here. What a disappointment. It’s not even dumb fun.
Moonfall disappoints on several levels. The main problem is that it’s not fun. So much of it feels like a pale imitation of what Emmerich has done better in the past, it comes close to appearing like a parody. This clearly isn’t high art, but it becomes an exercise in both rolling your eyes and yawning. When it comes to a would be blockbuster, that’s not a recipe for success.
This is both a very dumb and needlessly complicated film, but here goes nothing, plot-wise. A prologue introduces us to astronauts Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) and Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) during a mission that mysteriously goes horribly wrong. A decade later, Jo has advanced in her career and Brian is a disgraced has-been, dealing with alcohol and family issues. However, something is going to bring them together. You see, a force has knocked the Moon from its orbit around Earth, something conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) has been warning about. That, and the fact that the moon is actually a mega structure. No one believes him, but as the Moon begins a collision course with our planet, they just might.
With the clock ticking and mere weeks before impact, something has to be done. The military has a plan, but it probably means doom for all. This leads Jo, now the deputy director of NASA to recruit Brian for a last-ditch mission into space. Of course, this won’t just be dealing with fixing the Moon. It will also include confronting whatever put it out of its orbit in the first place…
The cast is given absolutely nothing to work with. Some of the lines Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson are forced to say are downright embarrassing. They do them with straight faces, but this is a clear paycheck gig for both. Then, there’s John Bradley, who has a role meant to be comic relief but instead becomes almost a co-lead. That’s not inherently a problem, except for the fact that the character is incredibly annoying. Bradley never stood a chance. The fully wasted supporting cast of Moonfall, includes Michael Peña, Kelly Reilly, Charlie Plummer, and a cameo by Donald Sutherland (he truly doesn’t seem to want to be here).
Roland Emmerich brings none of his zest to this project. Along with co-writers Spenser Cohen and Harald Kloser (Kloser also co-composed the score), Emmerich pens likely to be one of the year’s worst screenplays. Truly, the script is filled with howlers. Beyond the atrocious dialogue, the nonsensical plotting is bad even for something meant to be dumb fun. The trio has two plot strands they’re following, one including our trio going to space, and the other with some of their loved ones at home. Clearly, less of the latter is the way to go, but somehow, it’s almost a 50/50 split, including at very strange moments. The worst sin that Emmerich makes here is as director, since Moonfall appears to be a joyless affair. The man who once relished this sort of thing is now fully just going through the motions. If he’s not enjoying this film, how can you be expected to?
Moonfall should have been a slam dunk. This is the filmmaker you want for a flick like this. Unfortunately, the movie can’t even approach 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow level fun. This is, and I shudder to say it, closer to Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s not the unmitigated disaster that film was, but it’s a lazy slog. We deserved better, especially from the king of modern disaster epics.