Saturday 5 February 2022

Film Review: Moonfall

Strap in for lunar lunacy in Roland Emmerich's scatterbrained sci-fi epic, Moonfall.

The master of disaster is back; German director Roland Emmerich returns with yet another big-budget disaster epic in Moonfall. If you hadn't already gathered from its magnificent moniker, Moonfall sees a ragtag team working together to stop the moon from falling, destroying Earth and ending life as we know it.

The cast features Halle Berry as the acting director of NASA; Patrick Wilson as a disgraced astronaut with a point to prove; and John Bradley as a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist; as well as Michael Pena, Donald Sutherland and Kelly Yu.

Much like the moon itself, this film is 100 per cent cheese. But not the gourmet French stuff that smells funky and comes wrapped in foil; no, Moonfall is a thick block of tasty cheddar. It's a solid, no-nonsense crowd-pleaser. It knows what it is, it isn't pretentious or trying to impress you. What you see is what you get.

I don't know how much longer I can stretch out this cheese metaphor, so let's put that aside for now. What I'm trying to say is that this is a barmy B-movie through and through. 

Your milage with Moonfall hinges entirely on your appetite for Emmerich's patented brand of demented cataclysm. Much like Independence Day and its sequel, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, Emmerich delights in slathering the screen in splashy VFX. Fiery chunks of moon scythe through the atmosphere, cities are levelled, tidal waves cascade over mountains – you know the drill. 

I'm in two minds on this one; on the one hand, Moonfall is an objectively bad film, with bland characterisation, deranged plot beats, poor pacing and a massive exposition dump in the third act that plays out like a second-rate A Space Odyssey knockoff. Its acting talent goes to waste – the charm of Wilson and Berry isn't deployed effectively – and the visual effects vary between decent and dreadful. 

It's not a patch on Emmerich's earlier efforts either. In Independence Day, the craftsmanship is undeniable – from miniature models to matte paintings and cutting-edge digital composting. The characters are full of wit, charm and heart. There's an unmistakable earnestness to the story. The pacing is deliberate and builds tension, with cathartic climaxes throughout. 

Moonfall lacks pretty much all of those qualities. And yet, I had a good time with it – I wasn't expecting Chaucer, and Emmerich held up his end of the bargain by delivering something dumb and diverting. It's just a shame that, much like cheese, Moonfall doesn't have a long shelf-life and is already starting to smell a bit stinky after just a couple of days. 

I knew that cheese metaphor was coming full circle somehow. 

The Verdict: 4/10

This isn't Emmerich jumping the shark; that happened long ago. This is Emmerich dressing the shark up like an astronaut and shooting it right out of the cannon. Moonfall is the loudest, dumbest blockbuster that I've seen in a long time, and I had a pretty good time just letting the lunacy wash over me. 

Moonfall is in cinemas now.

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