You can never say that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have one of cinema’s greatest and maddest imaginations, can you? From Stargate to Universal Soldier, from Independence Day to 2012 (though perhaps tactfully side-stepping his pretty disastrous remake/version of Godzilla back in 1998, despite its excellent soundtrack), the German filmmaker has taken us on wild, unthinkable rides of “what if?” numerous times throughout his eclectic filmography. Aliens, mutant reptiles, the literal end of the world, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. With Emmerich, you literally get the kitchen sink thrown in – and at you – and with his latest, Moonfall, it’s the dark side of the moon that piques his interest. Again.
Just like with Henny-Penny (or Chicken Little), the sky is literally falling down – on a routine mission at a space satellite, a mysterious entity interrupts their work and is soon discovered to have knocked the moon off its orbit and is now on an impending collision course with Earth. NASA believes astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) is crazy and subsequently buries his theories and discharges him until, months later, his story rings true and teaming up once more with former colleague Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) – herself previously unconvinced of what Harper saw – and “not a real doctor” Dr. KC Houseman (John Bradley), who’s crackpot conspiracy theories now have much validity to them, set out to save the world.
It must be one of the easiest (comparatively) and most fun jobs working in the marketing department for the latest Emmerich extravaganza. Earth in peril, mad s*** happens. There’s of course much more skill to it than that and we don’t belittle the marketing campaigners at all when we say such things but, as with many of the filmmaker’s offerings, his new flight of fancy is like Ronseal: it does EXACTLY what it says on the tin. The moon does indeed fall. Tsunami’s, gravity displacement, floods, tornadoes, one-liners, top scientists running for cover due to their prior knowledge and subsequent cover-up’s and more. All your favourite hits on just three CDs! (OK, we’ll stop the TV advert-lite analysis there).
But the point remains that few can equal what Emmerich can conjure up with his imagination and while Moonfall won’t be threatening any awards shows anytime soon, you have to admire his ballsiness to not only continue to produce such gigantic frolics in space but to still be favouring the theatrical experience over streaming. The pandemic has hit the industry hard and the idea of heading to a streamer was no doubt discussed beforehand but kudos to all involved for sticking to their guns – particularly as some of the IMAX images are pretty staggering – as the film’s entertainment value may have diminished somewhat from watching at home.
Of course, while the visual stimulus is very high – the third act, in particular, is worthy of your time alone as we fly, spin, loop and swoop with our newly-formed space family – this does follow the template with its incredibly hammy dialogue, nonsensical plotting intricacies and lack of political or economic bite (especially against, say, Don’t Look Up). You can feel Berry, Wilson et al cringing a little at what they say and do but the why and how isn’t what you sign up for, it’s the when and where and such flaws don’t hamper his adventures. Emmerich is still the king of the bombastic and out-of-this-world, and Moonfall has all the thrills, spills, and comfort in its own lunacy to make this one wild ride to the dark side of the moon.
Sci-Fi, Thriller | 2022 | 12A | Theatrical | 4th February 2022 (UK) | Lionsgate, Entertainment Film (UK) | Dir. Roland Emmerich | Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland,