Roland Emmerich please never change. The man loves to have fun, plain and simple. He is also responsible for many of the movies that keep you entertained on a Sunday afternoon when you should be getting things done. Who doesn’t love turning on 1996’s Independence Day, or 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow (his best film in this critic’s eyes)? Emmerich loves his disasters, but he also has contributed to a world of blockbusters that in itself often finds difficulty surviving. This isn’t to bash a certain popular genre, but when you are reminded of what it is like to see a big action movie without capes, sequels or world building you find yourself hoping that Emmerich’s films will always survive the current cultural storm that is happening to movies. While it is perfectly understandable why people are avoiding going to the movie theaters, there is still nothing like sitting down for an Emmerich film with the promise of something wild (which he delivers on) but also exciting unforeseen turns that bring on the laughs and cheers. In other words, Emmerich is here to save the day.
Emmerich is not known for taking his time, after all when you name your film Moonfall you pretty much know what you are in for so why wait on the inevitable. That leaves only one way to open this film; a space exploration gone wrong. Thankfully there are a few moments of peace for astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) who spend their time in space arguing about the lyrics of Toto’s “Africa”. Wilson and Berry are a delight to watch, both committed to the absurdity of the dialogue and for what is about to hit them next. It isn’t long until something mysterious and quite powerful knocks their ship out of orbit costing them the life of one of their shipmates. It is a catastrophe that will cost Harper, his friends, job and family. Even as we quickly jump ten years Harper is in disarray and the disaster that cost him everything seems to be back. The disaster we find out is the moon has been knocked out of orbit and is heading straight towards Earth, causing lunar anomalies to rain down upon everyone. Unfortunately, NASA doesn’t seem to have the manpower, money or willingness to listen to this threat, so instead it is up to conspiracist KC Houseman (Game of Thrones’ John Bradley having a blast) to find a way to get anyone to listen to him and his YouTube channel. Bradley may be playing the comic relief but there is a heart of gold inside him that makes him not only easy to root for, but a reminder that Emmerich loves himself a great underdog.
But this is a disaster movie first and foremost, so by the time Bradley finds Harper and Fowler (who begrudgingly accepts working together) it may be too late. Earth’s gravity pull is shifting, debris is falling and NASA’s clever idea to send a rocket to destroy the moon does not get off in time. So, it’s up to our main trio to save the day. Emmerich with all his shoddy action also knows to bring the emotions that audiences members need in order to connect, because blowing up the moon isn’t enough apparently. Our trio all have people they will leave behind, Harper has his entire family including his estranged son Sonny (Charlie Plummer), Fowler her son and ex-husband, and Bradley has his beloved cat and mother who suffers from dementia. It’s all soap opera background that makes for some goofy but dedicated performances.
To explain what happens next would be cruel, even if it seems obvious there is still an exciting path to get there. Emmerich takes pieces from several of his most popular films and rearranges them to make a more expanded story on human legacy and responsibility. Never one to give us a dull moment this sci-fi exploration soon finds itself in a totally different atmosphere giving the audience something to dissect on the drive home This itself may be the greatest trick (or joke) Emmerich dishes out. There is an ongoing notion or even genre that avid movie goers created; the “so bad it’s good” genre. For this critic this never quite made sense, and Emmerich is proof of that. Moonfall is goofy, there’s a ton of dialogue that feels both outdated and unnecessary and yet this is nowhere near one of those so called “bad” films. It is a reminder that not every character needs a moral dilemma to do what is right, they don’t need superpowers or a promise of returning in an after credits scene. No Emmerich instead gives us a story about people who go out to save the world simply because they care about others, and it is the right thing to do. Sometimes that is all you need. Dare I say we all can learn a thing or two from Emmerich, and hopefully the moon doesn’t need to fall in order for us to understand.
(Moonfall is currently in theaters)
One Comment Add yours