The first half of Moonfall is dreadful, a remix of every previous Roland Emmerich disaster film you can shake a fist at whilst devouring popcorn. We’re talking multiple, maudlin broken families, movie stars slumming it with forced, unfunny humor, and the typically shallow, all-too-quick onset of society breaking down in the face of news of an oncoming apocalypse, this time because a conspiracist leaked the “news” to an online outlet. In the wake of Don’t Look Up, admittedly flawed in its own way, such a development is quaint. I’m not certain whether it’s horribly out of touch with society 2022 or amusingly in touch with people’s ability to believe anything they read on the internet. Either way, we know from recent experience that people in large numbers are more prone to underestimating a disaster. Patrick Wilson is amiable enough as a defamed astronaut, a family man whose decade-old sighting of a “technological phenomenon” is suddenly relevant to NASA leadership, but Halle Berry suffers under the weight of bad dialogue, perfunctory attempts at establishing a mother/son bond, and worst of all, what I swear are computer-generated attempts at erasing her aging visage. John Bradley (Game of Thrones) is a lone bright spot as the aforementioned conspiracist, a wannabe astronomer and hobby scientist who happens to be right before anyone else about the moon falling to Earth. The worst and best thing about Moonfall is that it encourages belief in conspiracy theories. The former due to the ethical implications of such, given our state of the world, and the former due to the sheer hilarity of this picture’s second half.
The second half of Moonfall isn’t any less campy or terribly written, but it’s infinitely more fun than the previous hour’s dour proclamations and dull melodrama. Emmerich finally unleashes his patented tableaux of destruction, with gravity waves nipping at the heels of aircraft and the moon’s gravity ripping cityscapes from their foundations. Patty’s pilot and Halle’s NASA director make amends, and Bradley’s cheerful genius gets to make good on his aspirations. Even Michael Pena’s snobby rich step-dad is redeemed, right before the inevitable occurs. Step-dads don’t survive in Roland Emmerich disaster films, or any disaster film for that matter. Emmerich remixes pieces of Armageddon, Prometheus, Elysium, and even Contact, reaching beyond his own filmography for plagiarism and inspiration. But at least it’s stupefying and entertaining watching him stumble for profundity and poignancy whilst allowing for silly lunacy like NASA staff hopscotching to a helicopter in low gravity. Unintentionally funny doesn’t even begin to describe Moonfall, a picture that confirms Emmerich is simply going through the motions at this point, even if those motions are enough to avoid a failing grade. Chalk it up to a forgiving mood or a fun time at the cineplex after two months of television and Oscar bait, but Moonfall could be worse.