58 / 100
Watchable Minutes: Moonfall is an abomination at 2 hours 10 minutes long. There’s a decently compact story available in this mess of a movie and it shouldn’t take more than 95 minutes to tell it. The over indulgence of destructive set pieces and inconsequential side stories made the entire movie feel as if it was never going to end.
- Run time : 2 hours 10 minutes
- Studio : Lionsgate
- Director : Roland Emmerich
- Where to Watch : In Theaters
Conspiracy theorist KC Houseman has made a startling discovery – the moon’s orbit has changed and it is on a collision course with Earth. Across the country at a NASA facility, ex-astronaut Jo Fowler reaches a similar conclusion and is scrambling to find a solution that will not end in nuclear fallout. Desperate to make contact with NASA, Houseman makes contact with disgraced ex-astronaut Brian Harper. Harper has fallen from grace due to his outlandish tale from his final space voyage involving an unknown organism and is an old friend of Jo Fowler. With no small amount of luck, the three of them race against time to prepare mission in order to investigate what is really going on and put a stop to it before the Moon crashes into Earth and eliminates life as we know it.
January and February are often considered to be the dumping grounds for movies that are not expected to perform well. The weather is cold, people are staying home, there’s nothing really driving people to the theaters. Summer and fall are typically reserved for blockbusters and Oscar-bait movies, and Moonfall is most certainly not one of these.
Ten years ago in the bright and optimistic time of 2011, a spacewalk is being conducted to make repairs to a satellite by a crew of NASA astronauts consisting of Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (Halle Berry), and some other guy I literally cannot remember or find mention of in the Wikipedia or IMDb page. The third crewmate is killed by a swarm of nanorobots that are on a collision course with the Moon. When the nanobots make contact with the ship, Jo is rendered unconscious and does not witness the swarm so she is unable to corroborate Harper’s story later. Harper is able to get back into the ship and makes a heroic maneuver to land the shuttle back on Earth solo. He is initially hailed as a hero, but after an 18-month trial to discover the cause of the other crewmate’s death, Harper is blamed and ultimately fired. His life falls apart as his wife divorces him, and he blames Jo for accidentally testifying against him as he struggles to find steady work for the next decade.
It is now 2021, and KC Houseman (John Bradley) has discovered something terrible. The Moon has shifted orbit around the Earth and a collision is imminent. The level of destruction would render the entire planet inhospitable. Desperate to be taken seriously, Houseman shares the information with NASA but is ultimately disregarded as another conspiracy theorist. In a stroke of luck, Houseman learns that disgraced astronaut Brian Harper is supposed to be speaking to a local school that day and he decides that he can leverage Harper to get the information to the right people at Nasa. However, Jo Fowler, now a director at NASA, has been informed of the issue through official channels and is in ultimate disbelief as she doesn’t believe there’s any way that the Moon could be knocked out of orbit so casually. When Harper decides that Houseman is telling the truth and that this is bigger than anything else going on (like Harper’s son being arrested for going on an underage joyride), he works to bring Fowler and Houseman together so that they can figure out how to stop this. Along the way there’s a completely inconsequential side quest story going on that is a lame attempt at providing an extra layer of motivation to the characters, as if saving the entire planet wasn’t enough motivation for these characters to do their jobs.
The story continues in much of the same way until it is revealed that Houseman’s theories are correct and the Moon is confirmed to be hollow. By confirming Houseman’s theory, Fowler has also vindicated Harper by proving that the nanobots from 10 years earlier were real. After witnessing the destructive power of the nanobots on a reconnaissance mission, NASA concludes that they are tracking objects with electromagnetic vision. In order to get a McGuffin the size of an EMPG / nuclear warhead hybrid close enough, a daring flight crew consisting of Fowler, Harper, and Houseman must fly in analog and deliver the bomb personally. Once this intrepid trio makes sure their loved ones are safe and accounted for (remember that inconsequential side quest?), they launch the Endeavour in the most dramatic fashion possible by having the Moon literally pull it in with gravity. Flying through a tunnel created by the nanobots, Houseman is again proved correct when it appears that the Moon is not only hollow but is also a Dyson sphere surrounding a white dwarf star with enough power to power humanity for several hundred generations. As they get ready to drop the EMP bomb, the shuttle they are in is pulled inside one of the advanced Dyson sphere structures and an indifferent AI system reveals the history of this moon. There’s a decent amount of absurdly hilarious lore in these next few scenes so I won’t spoil it. Oh, and the Earth is still being destroyed and the side quest family is in danger this entire time so no rush or anything.
The story ends with a whimper of a finale and makes room for a sequel. To say the ending of this movie is satisfying would just be an outright lie because the rest of the story gets in its way. There are random cuts to the side quest story that delay the finale significantly with no real bearing on the climax, which results in a completely disjointed experience. Outside of the main three characters, nobody else matters. Halle Berry delivers one of her more middle-of-the-road performances and doesn’t add anything particularly interesting to the story other than just being associated with Harper. Patrick Wilson as Brian Harper is about as perfect as perfect can be. I’m not saying that Wilson delivers an incredible performance, I’m saying that he literally gets to be the same character in every movie he’s ever in and he’s gotten good at merging them all together. With a forgettable John Bradley as Houseman, a trio of mediocre performances were had with absolute straight-faced and monotone delivery in every scene. To illustrate how poorly developed each of these characters were, Halle Barry and Patrick Wilson’s characters could have swapped roles in the story and it would have made no difference. It almost makes more sense to just combine the characters into one and create a different but equally shallow side character as comedic relief.
Surrounding the mediocre casting and performances are the usual hallmarks of an Emmerich movie. Massive CGI setpieces that showcase catastrophe at every turn are presented in spades. Most of the destruction looked rubbery and unconvincing, with most of the scenes taking place at night to hide the lack of detail. Along with the uninspiring camera work was a completely forgettable score that sounded very generic. The dialogue is passable at best, but there are moments where the lines are delivered so stoically that you can’t help but laugh.
Roland Emmerich, disaster artist extraordinaire, leads an ensemble cast of Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, and John Bradley through the conspiracy-filled and hilariously bad February “blockbuster”. Emmerich’s previous end of the world movies includes such things as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. While those movies don’t lean as far into a conspiracy theory as Moonfall does, they are similar in scale and scope. Conspiracy theories aside, Moonfall feels right at home amongst them and it makes for a halfway decent looking list on IMDb or Letterboxd. The ludicrous story and absurd dialogue are so bad that the whole shebang becomes laughable, which ultimately makes the movie almost enjoyable. Moonfall doesn’t take itself too seriously and because of that, it’s a halfway decent way to spend an afternoon with some buddies before the weather is nice again. Maybe do yourself a favor and get some experience-enhancing substances to go along with it for a really good time.