Roland Emmerich, the man behind films like Independence Day (1996) and 2012 (2009), returns with another disaster movie where Earth is destroyed by special effects. The cataclysmic destruction in Moonfall (2022) is limited to the USA. How people in other countries react to the fact that the orbit of the Moon has changed and it’s about to wipe off our entire existence is something we never get to know. There is a passing remark about how “the Chinese are offering their prototype moon lander,” but the sight of catastrophic collapse is restricted to America.
But you don’t go into a movie like Moonfall expecting real-world logic. We want to see how well the disaster has been rendered and if things are blown up satisfactorily. The film proudly checks the boxes, as is evident from the thrilling opening sequence where astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), and Alan Marcus (Frank Fiola) are attacked by a mysterious black swarm. A lot of money has been spent on CGI, and it shows. In fact, Brian, Jocinda and K.C. (John Bradley) have families. Their role, however, is not to increase the dramatic stakes but to show mayhem on Earth when the trio goes to space. This is also where it becomes clear that Moonfall is more interested in displaying calamity than human emotions. Those families could have been the beating heart of this manic machine. But the characters are simply there to function as plot devices or to run away from flying debris.
In the world of Moonfall, well-educated scientists are intellectually defeated by “visionary” crackpots and conspiracy theorists. The movie wears absurdity like a badge of honour. It screams, “I am silly, and I know it!” Moonfall lights up with impish glee during ridiculous scenes, like when K.C. takes pictures from his phone in space (don’t worry, the phone is in flight mode.)
I can’t say I completely enjoyed Moonfall. There were times when I found myself shifting in my chair restlessly. Perhaps the experience would have been different in a theatre, in front of a big screen. On a laptop, the big-budget spectacle doesn’t always overwhelm you with its scale and intensity. Definitely don’t watch it on your phone. Some expositions are tolerable for their mumbo jumbo insanity, while some make you shout, “Hey, stop! Get on with the explosions already.” But thankfully, Moonfall has actors who finely balance the line between seriousness and absurdity. In their hands, the lazy information dumps become both a matter of grave concern and a reason for hilarity. This disaster movie is a decent watch, if not as good as Emmerich’s 2012.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.