Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 10 minutes, Director – Roland Emmerich
When the Moon is revealed to have gone out of orbit, getting closer to the Earth, a disgraced astronaut (Patrick Wilson), the deputy director of NASA (Halle Berry) and a conspiracy theorist (John Bradley) are sent to discover the force behind this planet-threatening occurrence.
Moonfall. The Moon is falling. Out of orbit it’s threatening to crash into the Earth’s atmosphere, breaking to pieces and destroying the planet along with it. It’s a rather ridiculous disaster movie idea, one that fits the title Moonfall rather well. And yet, co-writer (alongside Harold Kloser and Spenser Cohen) and director Roland Emmerich manages to walk a line away from direct silliness through most of the two hour and ten minute run-time of his latest disaster flick. It’s not that the entire film is thoroughly serious, it acknowledges just what its tone is and there’s a fair deal of comic relief to be found within the effective figure of conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley). It’s he who makes one of the initial discoveries, altering the world to the fact, that the moon is rapidly getting closer to the Earth.
However, when nobody is prepared to listen to the man who not only owns a cat called Fuzz Aldrin (an excellent joke!) but believes that the Moon is actually an alien megastructure he attempts to enlist the help of disgraced former astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson). Trying to deal with his own personal problems; amidst the likely end of the world, including his teenage son (Charlie Plummer) potentially facing prison time for car theft and speeding in a highway chase with the police. However, the two eventually find themselves recruited by NASA, and Brian’s former colleague Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry); who was on the same mission that led the world to be told that Brian led to the death of another astronaut at the time, and not a mysterious space force, to find out just what is happening to the moon.
It’s of course an unlikely team that manages to click rather well within the confines of the space shuttle and the disaster film as a whole. There’s plenty of build-up but generally things move along rather well before we actually reach the point where the trio meet fully for the first time. Throughout tidal waves and increasing disasters there’s plenty of thrills to be found within the action that Emmerich’s latest produces. Amongst the general silliness of the base narrative the film manages to find an effective disaster tone during the escalating action and drama – even during a point where a space shuttle is trying to take off before it’s wiped out by a tsunami-level wave. This all, of course before the inevitable CGI destruction of recognisable city landscapes.
Such elements are perhaps what make the scenes in space the most interesting elements of the third act. While the film flicks back and forth between the shuttle crew and the unfolding events on Earth, looking at the character’s various family members and what’s happening to them, the stuff on our home planet is never as interesting as what’s happening up front with the Moon. While it might be because we don’t have as much connection with these figures – despite little screen-time the film appears to think most of Michael Peña’s late stage scenes have more effect than they actually do – it’s also because they simply feel like a distraction from the more exciting stuff that’s happening at the same time.
By continuously looking back to the families on Earth trying to survive the end of the world the film almost appears to put the brakes on every so often before jumping back into the main course of interest and action. It’s also the point where the most silliness comes through and the film almost appears to lose itself. Becoming something different in letting go of the more direct edge and allowing for the sprawling ridiculousness to almost get out of hand. It’s at a clear turning point in terms of character and explanation of events that things truly begin to unwind. The film certainly doesn’t drop so dramatically that it becomes bad; there are still a handful of chuckles to be had at the stretches the narrative leaps towards, but it does feel as if there’s something of a dip as the tone clearly changes before things wrap up. As if feeling like it needs to make up for not being as ridiculous as the trailers and core events would suggest. However, where Moonfall works best is when simply letting its base create disaster and seeing the race to save the world unfold. It’s when the intentional humour works and, most importantly, you’re able to get on board with the idea of the moon falling.
When focusing on its three central figures Moonfall manages to create some effective action within its drama, not forgetting to include humour to match the silliness of the general idea. However, there’s a clear dip as the silliness is heightened in third act shifts to less engaging events and side characters.