Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson and John Bradley
Sometimes movies don’t have to be good, as long as they are entertaining. As a critic, this notion sometimes escapes me. As humans, we use entertainment as a way to cope with our eventual demise. Admit it or not, this distraction is what drives us to art, both the good and the bad.
Did Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster film provide me with that pleasant distraction? Or was it a reminder to not waste my above ground moments on banal visual stimulation?
As a viewer, I don’t go into disaster films expecting highbrow scientific exploration like in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972) or Christopher Nolann’s Interstellar (2014), but Moonfall’s plot is even more insane than most disaster films. The world is going to end because the moon is going to “fall” on it. Get it? Moon-fall?
From its first terrestrial scene until its last moments, Moonfall meanders back and forth between plotlines and superfluous subplots. Worse, the script feels like it was written by a rudimentary AI system based on the brainwaves of teenage boys.
The film’s most glaring deficiency, however, is the acting. Halle Berry won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role with Monster’s Ball (2001), and deservedly so. She’s taken on some bad roles in the past, like 2004’s Catwoman, but none as bad as her turn as Astronaut Jocinda ‘Jo’ Fowler in Moonfall. Berry and her co-lead Patrick Wilson both play it 100 percent straight, like the world is really ending. Wilson wowed me early in his career with Hard Candy (2005) and Watchmen (2009) but has since become a “paint by numbers” leading man who seems simply to be going through motions. (See the Insidious and Conjuring horror franchises). Both performances made me wish I could somehow watch the film on mute. Each line they delivered was that painful.
The only actor who seemed to know what kind of film he was in was John Bradley of Game of Thrones fame. He plays portly momma’s boy “Megastructurist” perfectly, winking at the camera while espousing ridiculous lines of dialogue. Unlike his co-stars, his manner and cadence lend to the tension and the substrate of hilarity that makes films like this enjoyable. And sure it’s great to see Michael Peña on screen but I kind of wish he would have saved his dramatic acting for the next season of Narcos rather than wasting it on this.
What Moonfall gets right is the combination of practical and CGI effects. I am no expert, but when the inevitable destruction of the planet earth began my eye had trouble determining which images were computer generated and which were models. If Roland Emmerich has a singular talent (other than his tenacity to keep making bad films) it is to find people who can craft amazing visual scenes of destruction. Even terrible movies like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009) shine when the destruction ramps up to 11, but no amount of amazing model work, CGI and carnage could make Moonfall a film I would recommend to anyone. I didn’t care about a single character or their imminent demise and, more importantly, it didn’t entertain me enough to distract me from my own.
If Emmirich’s earlier disaster efforts The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 were both a D then this his latest follows suit.