MOONFALL (2022)

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Disaster
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Michael Peña, Donald Sutherland
Runtime: 2 hrs 10 mins
Rating: TBA
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 3 February 2022 

Synopsis: A mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all - but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) believe her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is. 

Movie Review:

No one does disaster movies like Roland Emmerich, and ‘Moonfall’ is proof that Emmerich is a master of the craft.

The disaster in question is the moon falling out of its orbit and on a collision course with Earth, exerting a gravitational pull that causes floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Those who have seen the trailer will know that the occurrence is not as a result of nature going haywire, but rather of an intelligent AI swarm wrecking havoc within the core of the moon.

The ‘unlikely’ heroes who will risk their lives to save the day are former astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), who is still carrying the guilt from a failed mission years earlier; acting NASA director Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), a close friend and former fellow astronaut whom Brian blames for what happened on that mission; and conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley), a discredited scientist who was the first to notice that there is something wrong with the moon.

Speaking of conspiracies, Emmerich and his frequent screenwriting collaborator Harald Kloser spin an eyebrow-raising one about the infamous two minutes of radio silence that NASA had apparently lost communications with Apollo 11; and as incredulous as that may sound, Emmerich at least has the wits to let Donald Sutherland be the one to carry it with his signature gravitas in his capacity as Holdenfield, the gatekeeper of NASA’s secret archives.

After uncovering what is purportedly the largest cover-up in NASA’s history, Jocinda assembles a do-or-die mission to the moon on board the retired Endeavour space shuttle in order to set off a prototype EMP device to knock out the alien entity. That Brian is chosen for the mission is no coincidence – given how sensitive the entity is to electronic devices, the plan requires Brian to navigate the surface of the moon without the help of guidance systems.

Their mission itself makes a tense and intriguing final act, as our heroes not only find themselves having to navigate through large chunks of rock that have broken off from the moon (due to the interaction of the Earth and the moon’s gravity), but also outrun a swift and smart being within the megastructure of the moon (without giving too much away, let’s just say it has to do with a certain theory that the moon is really a Dyson sphere). More so than in his earlier movies, Emmerich leads ‘Moonfall’ down some serious science-fiction territory, even venturing right into the heart of our genesis.

Even if the science doesn’t exactly hold up to scrutiny, the visuals do. The cataclysm wrought by the impending collision between Earth and its moon is harrowing to say the very least, what with pieces of the moon breaking up and crashing into Earth as meteors. And even though it is hardly the first time he is depicting the end of the world, Emmerich does so here with just as much gusto as before, serving up images of a flood-hit Los Angeles, a meteor-stricken Aspen and a gravity-decimated New York City for good measure. Emmerich is very much in his element here, so fans of ‘2012’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ will not be disappointed.

That said, as sobering as the scenes of human peril are, the parallel storyline involving Brian’s teenage son Sonny (Charlie Plummer), Jocinda’s young son Jimmy (Zayn Maloney) and a high-school student Michelle (Kelly Yu) who stays with Jocinda and Jimmy cannot quite match the same depths of excitement as the expedition itself. Emmerich splits the action into two theatres once Brian, Jocinda and KC blast off into space, but that set on Earth inevitably is less engaging even as the trio of Sonny, Jimmy and Michelle have their own challenges to deal with while trying to make their way up to an underground bunker for shelter, including escaping from the moon’s gravity every now and then when the moon is directly above them and evading a group of armed and vengeful ruffians.

It should come as no surprise that ‘Moonfall’ is ultimately spectacle- than character-driven, with the cast having to do much of the heavy lifting to make their characters stand out. Wilson and Berry are nicely cast as two former astronauts who have to settle their historical baggage in order to save the earth, while Bradley balances his performance neatly to deliver both levity and warning depending on what the screenplay calls on him to do. The other supporting actors have even less to work with, so we don’t quite blame Michael Pena (as Sonny’s step-dad) or even Sutherland for making less of an impression than what we would expect of them.

So like we said at the start, ‘Moonfall’ is ultimately signature Emmerich for better and for worse. It has plenty of disaster spectacle all right, the sort that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen for maximum cinematic experience; and at the same time, it has a bunch of rote characters as well as competent actors trying to make the best out of their roles. To Emmerich’s credit, ‘Moonfall’ tries to be more than just another end-of-the-world movie by also exploring the beginning-of-the-world, even at the risk of being dismissed as mumbo-jumbo; for us, the joy of seeing a vintage Emmerich movie is enough thrill, familiar or expected as it may be.

Movie Rating:

(As thrilling as Emmerich makes them, 'Moonfall' sees director Roland Emmerich very much in his element as the specialist in disaster spectacle)

Review by Gabriel Chong


 


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