Moonfall is big, dumb, exuberant fun and a welcome blockbuster-sized tonic from the endless IP regurgitation clogging theaters.
Who’s ready for another disasterpiece from the maestro, Roland Emmerich? Returning to the genre that butters his bread, he’s back with Moonfall, a tremendously stupid, intentionally silly epic of destruction and melodrama that plays its central joke entirely straight and, in true Emmerich fashion, delivers exactly what it promises.
Disgraced astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, always having a good time) is pressed back into service by his former commander Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) when crackpot YouTube conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley) discovers that Earth’s moon is about to come crashing out of the sky to destroy us all. Complicating matters is the swarm of alien nanobots that burrowed its way into Earth’s rocky satellite and appears to be steering the damn thing — Houseman contends that the moon is in fact a “megastructure,” a giant, hollow, extraterrestrial-made environment containing… well, something weird.
Cross-cut with the heroic mission to outer space to stop the moonfall (stop laughing, this is serious) is a gaggle of our leads’ disparate family members. Harper’s ex-wife and her new husband (Carolina Bartczak and Michael Pena, respectively), his estranged son Sonny (Charlie Plummer), and Fowler’s son (Zayn Maloney) and his nanny (Kelly Yu) have all managed to somehow wind up in the same place at the same time, and must now make the arduous trek to a military bunker in Colorado.
The narrative hurtles through incident with barely a care for anything but momentum; there’s simply no time for delicacy in a film like this. Even the characters’ interpersonal dilemmas are in danger of getting in the way of things. That is, until you get dialogue like Patrick Wilson complaining that he doesn’t want to help save the world “Because I’ve got my own problems.” This monster is cut to the barely-coherent minimum. We find out the moon is coming down, and within about 90 seconds of screen time, NASA is launching a probe mission, and then roughly a minute later those poor astronauts are alien nano-food. Barring a third-act expository info-dump (which, incidentally, positions this madness as Emmerich’s mega riff on De Palma’s misunderstood Mission to Mars) Moonfall just never stops.
Emmerich stages his crisp, plastic-y CGI tableaux of destruction with his usual enthusiasm. Look, there goes the top of the Chrysler building floating up into space as gravity reverses itself. Are you in a car chase with a gang of murderous bandits through a torrential storm of asteroids raining down on Aspen? Well, watch out for the train hurtling straight at you through midair. In a particularly hilarious sequence, the space shuttle — emblazoned with graffiti reading “Fuck the Moon” — launches just in time to escape the clutches of a massive tsunami, piercing the waves at the last second. Thank goodness Roland Emmerich knows exactly what he’s doing because there’s only so many Spider-Mans one can be expected to tolerate. You want a reason to go to a movie theater? Try watching the moon scrape its way across Los Angeles. In this way, Moonfall is a tonic.