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The sight of the moon falling is a vacuous, galaxy-brained spectacle

Do you recall the 1990s? Roland Emmerich reflects on his career

It’s never a good indication when the studios behind films like Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, which are allegedly about secrets meant to keep you wondering, spoil their own stories with dense trailers. If you’ve seen any of Moonfall’s grandiose TV spots or some of the film’s livelier print ads, you’ll undoubtedly notice each of the film’s unimaginative turns coming far before any of the characters do. But that may not be enough to prepare you for how spectacularly horrible Moonfall — a film that had the potential to be terrific — turns out to be.

Moonfall, like many of Emmerich’s considerably better action/disaster epics, revolves around a small band of beleaguered heroes who take on the task of preserving humanity when no one else will. During a routine space station repair mission, astronauts Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) and Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) become the only two survivors of a seemingly chance encounter with a mysterious force that swims through the void like a sentient cloud, reminiscent of Galactus from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

When a surge of debris causes their spaceship to spin erratically, Fowler is knocked out almost instantly, and she has no recall of what happened or how Harper managed to safely steady them using only their ship’s backup thrusters.

Moonfall alludes to how their ordeal in space ruined their lives following their final return to Earth, when they were faced with perplexity and questions for which they had no true solutions, however neither Berry nor Wilson portray it properly through their performances.

As the present-day plot of Moonfall begins, Fowler is still working for NASA, and Harper has evolved into the type of disgraced space hero who lives right near to observatories in order to show up late for scheduled appearances to speak with students.

Under any other circumstances, the two astronauts may have remained in the shadows, oblivious to their connection to the looming danger that the Earth faces as the Moon’s orbit begins to shift.

When Harper is approached by KC Houseman (John Bradley), a SpaceX fan and amateur astronomer who literally asks himself “what would Elon do?” at one point in the film and manages to gain access to classified information about what’s going on with the Moon while slacking off at his day job at a drive-through deli, their fates take a turn.

The initial dangerous repercussions of the Moon’s drop have already begun by the time Moonfall begins to bring its key trio of characters together in order for them to become its heroes, and for a brief period, it appears as if the movie is about to set itself on the correct road.

The Moon’s increasing proximity to the Earth and the resulting altered gravitational pull begin to emerge as both worrisome and promising Emmerichian set pieces, such as the abrupt flooding of North America’s coasts as waters rise and become strangely chaotic. However, whenever Moonfall becomes too preoccupied with being interesting, it stops to introduce a slew of thinly fleshed-out characters, such as Harper’s wayward son Sonny (Charlie Plummer) and Fowler’s military general ex-husband Doug (Eme Ikwuakor), who serve no real purpose other than to deliver stilted lines that divert attention away from what audiences come to see in these types of films.

Moonfall almost seems to develop a new level of self-awareness about how flimsy its internal logic is in its final third. However, rather than correcting course, Emmerich and co-writers Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen’s script heaps on even more nonsense, which doesn’t work as dumb fun due to the film’s overall hollowness and airlessness. While aspiring conspiracy theorists may like the couple of bones Moonfall throws their way in its chase of subreddit celebrity with the anti-science crowd, it’s safe to say that the film is a complete whiff, which is surprising given how easy a target this should have been to strike.

Moonfall is disappointingly light on continuous passages that make you feel just how awful and truly hopeless that sort of situation might actually feel as a movie about the Moon appearing deciding to drive itself into the Earth and humanity battling to preserve itself from catastrophe. While you may imagine Moonfall to have an ever-present sense of dread akin to Majora’s Mask, it really ends up having more in common with Breath of the Wild: a game where you can hang around and do nothing until the terrible Moon returns on an expedited timeframe to ruin your peace and quiet.

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