Moonfall Synopsis: The world stands on the brink of annihilation when a mysterious force knocks the moon from its orbit and sends it hurtling toward a collision course with Earth. With only weeks before impact, NASA executive Jocinda “Jo” Fowler teams up with her disgraced former partner Brian Harper and an overlooked conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman for an impossible mission into space to save humanity.
Aside from the occasional period piece (The Patriot and Anonymous), director Roland Emmerich’s heart lies within the carnage of big-budget B-movies. Emmerich continues to morph the tenants of disaster movies and other shlock subgenres into his vast visual framework, successfully reigniting old-school sensibilities with the 1996 classic Independence Day before following up with the equally dopey The Day After Tomorrow and 2012.
Emmerich doesn’t always hit that shameless guilty-pleasure itch (I’m looking at you 10,000 B.C.) – but when he does – he enriches one of cinema’s traditioned sources of uproarious entertainment in his own bombastic light. The director’s latest endeavor, Moonfall, finds audiences amidst the starry celestial sky as a sinister force sends the moon on a crash course towards earth. While mileage will vary, I found myself instantly won over by Emmerich’s endearing brand of popcorn entertainment.
Like past Emmerich projects, Moonfall possesses a self-aware understanding of its intentions without ever winking at the audience. Screenwriters Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen aid the director in crafting a film that embraces implausibility at every turn. The screenplay skillfully walks a tight high-wire act of ridiculousness as the film continues to double-down on its B-movie logic, including a third-act twist that’s so out-of-this-world that it would take me a few paragraphs alone just to explain it.
Many will not be pleased by Moonfall’s eye for pie in the sky goofiness, yet it’s that exact cheeky energy that makes the film work so well as a piece of big-budget camp. With nearly a dozen big-budget offerings under his resume, Emmerich briskly guides audiences along from setpiece to setpiece with a cognition understanding of the tone and atmosphere he sets to accomplish.
The director remains an impressive craftsman in his visceral splendor, successfully conjuring moments of earth-crushing destruction and high-flying chases with a skilled balance of dread and edge-of-your-seat thrills. In a climate where shaky cam and murky CGI visuals are the norms, Emmerich’s favoring of wall-to-wall scale and bright imagery serve as welcoming avenues for blockbuster thrills. Moonfall delivers those thrills in droves, rarely halting its pace as Emmerich throws an array of exciting setpieces at the screen.
When the action isn’t onscreen, Emmerich’s brand of cheesy melodrama takes center stage. I’ve always found the director’s penchant for human B-plots kind of endearing. As our characters wrestle with world-ending implications, they still have to unwind the familial drama and personal struggles that inhabit their day-to-day lives.
The writing isn’t particularly clever or original, but it serves its exact purpose of providing a human rooting interest to ground the continual carnage. A strong core cast helps mask the inherent corniness, with Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry presenting enough sturdy presence and charming charisma to carry the unevenness. Game of Thrones star John Bradley also adds some quirky humor as an oddball scientist who cracks the truth about the falling moon.
For viewers who can stomach some cliches and Emmerich’s penchant for goofiness, Moonfall is an utter delight. It was oddly refreshing to see a film that’s so dopey and sincere in its big-budget pursuits. Even as his style remains critically maligned, Emmerich’s voice continues to amplify the nostalgic joys of old-school B-movies.