From the director behind some of the most memorable disaster movies ever made–Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, to name a few–comes one of the most memorably dumb and awful movies of 2022.
Though his movies have rarely been highbrow, Roland Emmerich is responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring spectacle of the 90s and 00s, relying on explosive special effects, entertaining (if shallow) characters, and increasingly high stakes.
But if you think you’ve had to check your brain at the door for his past films, Moonfall makes you think twice–although thinking is the absolutely last thing you should do when watching this disastrous spectacle of terrible writing, dreadful characters, and painful, logic-defying editing. Shockingly, Emmerich even fails in the disaster department.
I was actually looking forward to Moonfall. The trailers weren’t very good, but when you put Emmerich and “disaster movie” in the same sentence, I can’t help but get a little excited. And I don’t hate the concept, which involves something non-human controlling our moon to crash it into the Earth, destroying all life.
But the execution is so, so, so bad.
The plot, cut up and scrambled with visible chunks seemingly left on the cutting room floor, is painful to consume, with Emmerich making huge logic leaps to get his story from Point A to D to Z (more like an “F”). In one scene of many, accidental NASA leader Jocinda Fowl (played admirably by an extremely young-looking Halle Berry) discovers that the engine for her space shuttle has been damaged before launch. Within a matter of seconds, she has hopped on a loudspeaker to tell everyone to go home to die with their families. The camera immediately cuts to the shuttle crew hopping on a 747 to fly away, bags packed et all. What?
The dialogue is excruciating. Berry aside, the acting is equally bad, with Patrick Wilson especially cringe-inducing (Wilson has always been an actor who can thrive with the right material and flatline with the wrong stuff, and boy is this the wrong stuff). John Bradley is slightly likable but mostly obnoxious, while the rest of the cast acts as if they were hired off the street.
2012 is a pretty dumb movie, but it benefited from a focus on a few central characters, largely likable, and absolutely ridiculous disaster sequences. Moonfall jumps between a bunch of different characters doing different things; Emmerich would have benefited from cutting several of them entirely. Worse is that for the first time in his career, Emmerich seems disinterested in the disaster spectacle; there is plenty of it, but he often cuts to them mid-sequence and then jumps away, losing any visual or emotional impact of the moment. The visual effects vary from decent to downright bad, too.
Underlying it all, the final act implies that Emmerich envisioned Moonfall to be much more cerebral than it actually is. The big reveals are dead upon arrival, evoking awkward laughter rather than “oohs” and “ahs.” Marred by the awful dialogue and piss-poor dialogue, the movie is just way too stupid to be smart, and if that sounds like a dumb thing to say, watch this movie first (actually, don’t) and then tell me I’m wrong.
Moonfall’s central premise isn’t bad, but the rest of the movie is. What a disaster.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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