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Film Review – ‘Moonfall’ is Roland Emmerich’s Latest Visually Stunning but Predictable Sci-fi Disaster Thriller

The fight to save and protect humanity from a surprising uprise by an antagonistic force in the science field has long intrigued audiences, in terms of entertainment, but has become increasingly realistic and relatable in recent years. Expert action-thriller filmmaker, Roland Emmerich is once again showcasing how humanity around the world must learn how to work together in order to defend itself from a seemingly impossible foreign enemy in his latest drama, Moonfall.

Opening in 2011, Moonfall follows astronauts Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (Halle Berry) and Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) as they’re joking with each while they’re working on a NASA satellite repair mission. The Space Shuttle assignment quickly goes awry, however, when a swarm of mysterious space-locusts attacks the spaceship and sends one of their colleague to his death in perpetual orbit.

The story then jumps ahead a decade to the present day, as Brian is still contending with the fallout from the failed mission. After wrongfully being blamed for the accident, and fired, by NASA, the disgraced former astronaut is still trying to put his life together. He’s been struggling to pay his rent on his Los Angeles home near Griffith Observatory, since his divorce from his former wife, Brenda Lopez (Carolina Bartczak), who’s now remarried to a uxorious car businessman, Tom (Michael Peña).

MOONFALL, Roland Emmerich, 2020/2021

Brian and Brenda are also contending with the fact that their teenage son, Sonny (Charlie Plummer), was arrested on drug charges following a high-speed chase with the police. When Brian shows up in the courtroom to support his son, he inadvertently defies the judge and only makes Sonny’s situation worse.

Meanwhile, KC Houseman (John Bradley), is a university janitor who frequently takes advantage of his workplace to impersonate its professors. As an amateur scientist, he uses the information he gathers from his impersonations for research. He ultimately discovers that the moon has suddenly and unexpectedly moving off of its orbit, which will soon have disastrous implications for Earth, before NASA even does.

After then impersonating Brian, KC eventually convinces the former astronaut that they need to join forces and convince NASA to allow them help on a new mission to save Earth. After also reuniting with Jo, who has moved up the chain at space administration, the trio sets out to stop the moon from causing gravitational havoc on humanity around the world.

Like many of Emmerich’s previous sci-fi-action-disaster thrillers, from the Independence Day series to The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, Moonfall is driven by scientific inaccuracies, a formulaic narrative and a lack of character depth to instead focus on its visual effects. The latest drama from the director, who also co-wrote the sceenplay with Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen, only features a superficial, surface level glimpse into Brian, Jo and KC’s personal and professional lives. Besides the special effects, the protagonists’ limited character development is also a result of the script instead focusing on an at-times preachy message about how modern society’s dependency on technology is taking away people’s ability to fully connect with those around them.

Despite the sci-fi movie’s at-times exaggerated, excessive moralizing theme of humanity’s over dependence on technology, it does feature strong, memorable elements in the sci-fi-disaster genre. One such notable characteristic is Bradley’s engaging portrayal of the well-intended KC, who’s often diverted by mishaps and misunderstandings. The actor is the true standout star of the drama, as he infused his performance  – and the story – with a humorous, lighthearted nature. His pure intentions help diffuse the tension amongst the NASA employees as they determinedly work hard to find a way to save the world from the moon’s new orbit.

Another stellar element of Moonfall that compensates for its overall predictable narrative and lack of general character development is Emmerich’s stellar signature special effects. The thriller features spectacular visuals on Earth and the moon that are not only the main driving force in the story’s conflict, but also engage the viewers in the characters’ trajectory. From the mystifying space-locusts swarm that attacks Brian and Jo’s satellite to the moon’s ominous appearance as it orbits closer to Earth and the Pacific Ocean’s treacherous waves that flood Los Angeles as the moon’s gravitational pull begins affecting the city, the film’s overall visuals truly highlight the terrifying changes that are quickly happening in the solar system.

Overall, Moonfall follows in the footsteps of Emmerich’s previous sci-fi-action-disaster thrillers, in terms of its formulaic, predictive story and overall lack of character development. The filmmaker’s latest drama is also preachy in its theme to some degree about how modern society’s dependency on technology is taking away people’s ability to fully connect with the rest of humanity.

But the drama truly redeems itself with its spectacular, enthralling visual effects. Bradley also helps enhance Moonfall‘s story with his charming, relatable portrayal of the well-intended KC, whose humorous, lighthearted nature and pure intentions actually help the NASA employees as they work to find a way to save the world from the moon’s new orbit.

Lionsgate released Moonfall in American theaters and IMAX today, February 4, 2022.

Grade: B-

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.
Karen Benardello
Karen Benardello
As a life-long fan of films and television shows, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic in 2008. Karen has since been working in the press in New York City, including interviewing film and television casts and crews, writing movie and television news articles and reviewing films and televisions series. Some of her highlights include attending such local events as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and New York Comic-Con, as well as traveling across North America to attend such festivals as the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has been a member of the Women Film Critics Circle since 2012, and the New York Film Critics Online since 2019.


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