‘How many Brians are there in the moon?’ is an early entry in 2022’s list of immortal movie quotes; Halle Berry is an award-winning actress, but what can she or anyone do with lines like that? The disaster movie is fairly old-hat these days, yet Roland Emmerich persists in making movies with stars and concepts that would have wowed audience in the mid 90’s, but seem a little retro now, not least because so much of Moonfall’s action was parodied in Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. So if you only see one movie in which the earth faces up to an impending cosmic disaster and sends a heroic astronaut up to save the world, you’re probably better with the Adam McKay spoof, but there’s tonnes of ironic fun to be had from watching this amusingly straight version, which appears with Fortinbras timing shortly after the parody much like Airport 80: The Concorde did after Airplane.
This is a story of ‘mounting moon terror’ in which the Moon itself is the baddie; it’s not just any moon, it’s a megastructure, a line regularly repeated by heroic conspiracy expert KC Houseman (John Bradley). I’m not aware of Bradley from Game of Thrones, but I’d be keen to see a lot less of him after one of the trademark cringe-worthy comic relief performances that Emmerich loves to leaven his action with. Yup, the moon turns out to be a physical contstruct, created by aliens and protected by ‘swarms of biotechnology’. With the moon exerting some kind of magnetic power of earth (gravity waves ahoy!), disgraced astronaut Brick Lampjaw Rock Hardnut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) gets the chance to redeem himself by flying a graffiti-covered space-shuttle to the moon and sorting things out in some sub-Solaris conversations with the AI algorithm in charge.
Sounds hokey? You ain’t heard half of it yet, since Emmerich never heard a scenario that he didn’t think would be improved by multiple-planes of action. Harper’s son Sonny (Charlie Plummer) is involved in a series of car-chases and gunfights as he travels across the US with car-dealer Michael Pena and underused love-interest Kelly Yu, while Eme Ikwuakor plays the ex-husband of Jo (Halle Berry) who takes the NASA command centre at gunpoint to ensure the safety of his one-time wife while she’s in space. Confused? You should be, since this multiple-character drama rapidly shunts actors on and off screen between dramatic curtains of expensive special effects.
We haven’t even got to Donald Sutherland’s secretive astronaut; all the trappings are in place for a pricey ($150+ million reportedly) romp. Sops to Chinese finance? How about regular dropped-in mentions of ‘our Chinese friends’ to sweeten the deal? Product placements for iphones? Cute cats called Fuzz Aldrin that play a key role in the action? Yup, the good ship Moonfall sets sail with all these cheesy elements present and correct, and it’s hard not to take any enjoyment from a proposition every bit as ridiculous as the similarly overblown Geostorm. Mixing elements of Elysium, Prometheus, Armageddon, 2012 and more, Moonfall is a perfect storm of delerious film-making, a veritable festival of silly dialogue and flashy effects that proves, once and for all, that this particular moon is made of delicious bad-movie cheese.