For those who enjoy extreme drama and outer space battles, Moonfall will fit the bill with some captivating moments that outweigh the excesses.
Where current The Matrix Returns utilizes Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit within its soundtrack to amazing effect, a true highlight of the film, Moonfall (sounds like a James Bond title, doesn’t it?) utilizes the band Toto’s “Africa” with less audio impact. Patrick Wilson proves he’s no Grace Slick – the intro sputtering a bit, Moonfall scrambling to find itself maybe thirty minutes into the run time.
This generation probably has no idea of the mega-disaster films from previous maestro Irwin Allen, the “Master of Disaster” of the big screen blow-everything-up genre some decades back. His name was everpresent in 1960s television for Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space maybe gave a hint that Allen would graduate to making fortunes on small budgets. According to Wikipedia his The Poseidon Adventure made 125 million in 1972 on a less than five million dollar budget; the follow-up, 1974’s The Towering Inferno made $203.3 at a fourteen million dollar cost. These are huge numbers for the time (the early 70s) without the massive worldwide returns on investment found today.
Roland Emmerich has his formula, directly from the way that was paved by past gloom and doom visionaries, if we can call them that. For the vision is destruction.
Moonfall could be called an amazing film of sorts. It’s the new master, Emmerich, sweetening his formula with stunning visual effects and wonderful cinematography. However, the recurring problem, which simultaneously makes tons of cash but weakens the artistic value, is that same old formula getting in the way of the “important art.”
The flaws from blockbuster Independence Day are transferred to Moonfall, while the pluses are enhanced and made all the more thrilling until they go over the top. Rather than restrain himself, which Emmerich is more than capable of doing, he always throws everything but the kitchen sink in your face, the difference between “subtle” Norman Bates as Alfred Hitchcock’s terrifying slasher/ psycho, and the harsh blood ‘n’ guts of Friday the 13th, Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street: gore for gore’s sake.
And unlike Irwin Allen’s blockbusters chock full of A-list celebrity, Roland the E is a big tease with some star power, but not the bundle Irwin would drop on the unsuspecting world, star power that brought home the results. Outside of Game of Thrones does anyone know who chubby John Bradley is? (the obligatory Harvey Fierstein-type character that was from Independence Day. Not overtly gay (this time,) but a pure mama’s boy) while 86 years young Donald Sutherland is grossly underused, to the film’s detriment. Indeed, Sutherland’s presence is downright morbid when his unique insight in these fictional situations always proves of value.
Patrick Wilson – now pushing 50, but still looking good – has always been likable and despite all his work and vast industry wealth, Moonfall, with an ending that suggests a sequel, could put him onto that next level. Given that it was a stormy night on February 3, 2022, when this film opened at 6 PM at the AMC in Burlington and I counted only nine individuals in the theater, two of them women (guys go for the sci-fi,) …hope that’s not a harbinger of ticket sales to come as this film does deserve a good shot.
It’s been six years since Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) which cost 165 million (Irwin Allen must be spinning,) and brought in “only” about three hundred and ninety million. Hardly impressive when the original 1996 Independence Day did over 817 million on a 75 million dollar budget.
The intriguing thing about I.D. Resurgence is that Emmerich used more color, a more intriguing storyline (for a sequel, especially), and better acting. It was once again the hokey script with mawkishly sentimental poorly timed scenes that got in the way of the character development. Indeed, the director actually uses the contrived moments to probably bring in the dollars, playing to the current slam-bang audiences that would have adored TV’s less-than-mature Lost in Space had they been born in the sixties. For a purist, it can drive you crazy. ID Resurgence AND Moonfall are closer to serious sci-fi than previous efforts – 1998’s horrible Godzilla with Matthew Broderick, one case in point, yet missing the target to get them into the “classic sci-fi” realm they pose as. Such a shame….so close, yet so far away.
This time the current era’s “Master of Disaster,” goes beyond his own worlds to draw from Terminator Genisys for the A.I. villain. Can James Cameron sue? Probably not as the A.I. here is similar also to the creepy thing from the otherwise excellent Lucy from 2014 (with Scarlett Johansson.) In addition to the out-of-control A.I. (becoming mundane, the concept so overused these days) there’s an imitation of the Emperor’s planet-killing space station from most of the Star Wars films which makes its way to planet Earth.
In this perspective – a hollowed-out manufactured heavenly body shifting without Darth Vader’s approval – Moonfall gets its second wind. It’s a self-correction, Moonfall the movie “correcting” itself just as NASA seeks the moon correcting itself to get back to its normal course. Where the action is, though: Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry, and John Bradley diving into the moon while meteors are hitting our homeworld, is where the fun is, and the momentum swings toward that action making this film somewhat great.
The slow intro to this motion picture, reminiscent of 1950’s sci-fi where kids viewing the proceedings were bored until things of interest begin, is brought back to haunt moviegoers. Such maudlin situations for Wilson’s character, Brian Harper, discarded by his “work wife,” Jocinda Fowler – played by science fiction film specialist Halle Berry (Catwoman, X Men, 007, etc.) bog the film down and almost kill it. Berry is good enough for the functional drama, her star power letting her take a break from having to actually perform here. The actress is good, of course, because she’s a sterling actress, and perhaps the lack of a superlative script has the entire group acting as if they are in a play at a comic book convention.
Tighten up the intro, focus on the razzle-dazzle of the Star Wars in and around the moon – for it gets too close to planet Earth for your suspension of belief to kick in – and Moonfall comes close. It just could have been a lot closer.
Official Site: https://moonfall.movie/
Rating: PG-13 for violence, disaster action, strong language, and
some drug use
U.S. Release Date: February 4, 2022
Running time: 124 min
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña,
Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Eme Ikwuakor, Carolina Bartczak, and
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser & Spenser Cohen
Produced by: Harald Kloser, p.g.a., Roland Emmerich, p.g.a.
.Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, legendary writer Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a twenty-seven-year-old variety show (established 1995) on cable TV featuring A-list celebrities from all walks of life.