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Moonfall •1/2

Movie Greg Scott




Scott, if the movies “Gravity” and “Don’t Look Up” had a baby that was deprived of oxygen at birth – you’d still have something more intelligent than “Moonfall.”

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Add gingivitis and encopresis to that baby’s litany of problems and you’d still have something better. Let’s re-crap:

It’s 2011 and we’re introduced to astronaut Brian Harper who is in a space walk with his buddy. A “swarm” from the Moon attacks that creates a catastrophic event that destroys their satellite and incapacitates their shuttle. Inside the shuttle astronaut Jocinda “Jo” Fowler is unconscious leaving Harper to land the shuttle without power. Instead of being hailed as a hero, Harper is convicted of pilot error and kicked out of NASA.

Years later, lifelong nerd K.C. Houseman discovers that the moon’s orbit around the Earth is decaying. He tries to inform Harper, who doesn’t believe him. NASA then discovers the orbital decay and sends a trio of astronauts to investigate. They are killed by the swarm. Meanwhile, the moon’s proximity to the Earth is causing tsunamis and wreaking havoc. Just as Houseman always suspected, it is revealed that the moon is actually a megastructure built by humanity’s ET ancestors.

Scott, I may never forgive you for forcing me to watch this movie. It’s as if they took elements from every science fiction script ever written, threw them into a blender, ate the resulting mush, and then threw it up on the screen. I saw fragments of “Meteor,” “Contact,” “2001,” “Independence Day,” “2012,” “EarthStorm,” “Wargames,” “Prometheus,” “World War Z,” and more. There were scientific concepts used in a word salad that had no relationship to the rest of the movie. Things like “white dwarf,” “singularity,” “gravity,” “dyson’s sphere,” “AI,” “megastructure,” “DNA,” “EMP,” “atmospheric dissipation,” – and those are just the ones I can remember.

Spliced in the middle of this scifi stew, is a series of personal stories. Apparently everyone in this movie is divorced with an estranged spouse who is in a high political position and keeping their kids away. All the “other” members of the family are trying to get to safety at NORAD – where the military is trying to blow the moon up with … wait for it … nuclear missiles.

Scott, you’ve often told me that sometimes you have to “turn your brain off” to enjoy a movie. I tried to turn my brain off. But I wonder what is the reverse of that? This movie was so bad that when I turned my brain off, it actually started sucking neurons out of my head giving me negative brain energy.

Greg, you’re welcome, and my pleasure. You’ve always told me that you enjoy watching bad movies because they can always teach you something. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve finally learned your lesson. But let’s get real here for a minute (or should I say, let’s get “reel”). Moonfall’s badness is unmistakable, for sure, and it may indeed be helpful to examine why.

You’re off to a great start in cataloging the reasons for this movie’s ineptitude. Imagine eating a strange, huge salad consisting of stale turnips and grass clippings from your front yard. That’s what this film is. But wait, we don’t really have to eat the salad – we can laugh at it and poke it with our fork to reveal the doggie-doo under the turnip slices. Yes, the Salad From Hell can be viewed as kind of a practical joke, a campy jaunt that I don’t think was even trying to take itself seriously.

I really don’t think the filmmakers were even trying to make a good film here. They were basically hoping that old hackneyed tropes combined with good CGI and action might attract some semblance of an audience during a slow time in the movie cycle.

Director and writer Roland Emmerich is to blame for this monstrosity. I think it’s overly generous to call this a “B” film or even campy. The film takes itself far too seriously to be intentionally bad. Emmerich is the father of such ignominious films like “Independence Day,” “The Day after Tomorrow,” “2012,” and “White House Down.” Which makes him a modern day Irwin Allen (1970’s The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, and the original Lost in Space).

Despite the fact that “Moonfall” is based on the conspiracy theory novel “Who Built the Moon?” by Christopher Knight (not the Brady Bunch actor, btw), I think this film is totally designed around the special effects. Emmerich’s penchant for elaborate SFX and CGI are well-documented in his previous outings. We see a lot of the same scenes of global annihilation in “Moonfall.”

As this is a “Reel Heroes” review, I feel it incumbent upon me to talk about the heroes in the film. Leading man Patrick Wilson plays disgraced astronaut Brian Harper who has lost everything and is tapped to lead the rescue mission to the moon. As such he plays the redeemed hero. Halley Berry’s Jocinda “Jo” Fowler was on the same ill-fated mission as Harper and somehow ended up as head of NASA. She has no real arc in this story but reconciles with Harper to save the day. John Bradley plays K.C. Houseman, a conspiracy theorist, who ultimately gives his life to save Earth. His is the comic relief / sidekick character as well as the martyr.

Together, the three represent a classic triad of hero, partner, and sidekick. I give them 2 out of 5 Heroes. “Moonfall” fails my most basic test, even for a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie. But I admire the chutzpah Emmerich displayed to get funding for the most expensive independent film made to date – so I’ll give it 1 Reel out of 5.

Greg, no movie accomplishes the goal of being “so bad it’s good” than that 1959 classic film Plan Nine From Outer Space. I would say that ‘Moon-falls’ very close to landing in this category. I didn’t have as terrible a movie experience as you did with this film because I knew it was supposed to be just a silly mindless diversion. Master-of-Disaster Roland Emmerich is now on notice – the “disaster” in his title may soon refer to the movies that he makes, not the content of them. I give this movie 2 Reels out of 5 because of its Plan-Nine-like “so bad it’s good” quality.

You have to admit that John Bradley does a commendable job of portraying Houseman as an everyman hero who finds himself way over his head as an astronaut, and then makes the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity. I loved the character’s goofy blend of nerdiness and courage, but I did not like the insinuation that conspiracy theories have merit to them. Houseman’s heroism merits 2 hero points out of 5.

Movie Greg Scott