Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry, and Director Roland Emmerich are Gonna Moon ya!



As you may’ve heard, everything we know is wrong.  So it comes to be discovered in Moonfall, the latest bombastic disaster spectacle from Roland Emmerich, the man who granted us Independence Day in 1996 and darn near destroyed Godzilla in 1998.  The fact that Emmerich’s reign as a viable maker of corn-fed blockbusters has waned many cycles ago hasn’t stopped him from launching this (reportedly) $146 million independently financed VFX-powered end-of-days yarn.

From the jump, our minds are targeted to be blown.  Never mind the film’s overall premise that our big blue marble finds itself terminally threatened when the moon mysteriously deviates from its orbit, bringing it closer and closer to imminent collision with the Earth.  Never mind the glimpsed shapeshifting malevolent and murderous mass that gravely derails our astronaut protagonist’s film-opening spacewalk.  In the calm before that entity strikes, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) gets into a friendly debate with his “work wife”, Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) over the lyrics of the now-culturally saturated song “I miss the rains down in Africa” by Toto.  It turns out that it’s not “I miss the rains” at all.  It’s “I bless the rains down in Africa.”  She’s right, he’s wrong.  Mind. Indeed. Blown.  All these years, I, like the doubting Harper, have been singing it wrong.

Harper and Fowler have no time to carry on about that shocking revelation, as a burst of monstrous space mayhem quickly throttles their routine mission into tragedy.  Harper ends up taking the fall for the way it all went down, and subsequently, his life completely falls apart.  That ill-fated mission was back in 2011.  Since then, Fowler has climbed the career ladder at NASA.  Things really go crazy when a few of her key underling researchers report to her that the moon itself is dangerously out of orbit.  

Right around the same time, a gawky and rather irritating Elon Musk-worshipping conspiracy theorist named K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) releases his own very similar findings online after no one else would listen to him.  Houseman teams up with Harper who is brought in from having been fired to once again work with Fowler.  Houseman’s crackpot theories about the Moon being hollow prove true, in that it is also an intentional megastructure powered internally by enormous rotating rings.  There is, of course, more to this, but suffice to say that all of this being meddled with by the shapeshifting entity causes Moonfall’s central catastrophe, which is the moon falling on everyone, quite unpleasantly.

In Emmerich’s defense, it’s been a while since we’ve had a mainstream movie quite as assuredly nutso as this one is.  With this grand conceit, the filmmaker gets to destroy the world all sorts of ways.  The tides!  Flying debris!  Atmospheric chaos!  Earthquakes!  Gravity itself on the blink!  Plus, spaceships, wild superstructures, alien menaces, and even a car chase!  Perhaps this, not Resurgence, should’ve been the sequel to Independence Day.  Moonfall is at its best when it unapologetically goes full throttle, not giving viewers the chance to process that this hunk of digital green cheese is as dumb as a moon rock.  

That said, it could be argued that amid all the sensory assault and cacophony, Emmerich is simply keeping a cinematic tradition alive.  Cockamamie plots intermingling with stock human drama is nothing new to sci-fi cinema.  One need looks no further than the recently released Blu-ray triple feature of classic sci-fi films of Edgar G. Ulmer (1951’s Man from Planet X; 1960’s Beyond the Time Barrier and The Amazing Transparent Man) for an apt comparison.  Ulmer treated his films’ far-fetched half-baked concepts with utmost seriousness, and his carefully chosen actors followed in spirit.  Emmerich’s cast is likewise fully committed to Moonfall’s ridiculousness.  

Back in the day, George Pal and/or Byron Haskin could’ve worked wonders with this material.  Today though, we ask perhaps too much of these movies.  So, they inflate themselves to excessive proportions.  The bigger and louder and faster and more intense they get, the more they can challenge our patience.  The associative problems really flare up when one considers how, in the post-Star Wars universe, b-picture stories like Independence Day, and by extension, Moonfall, are now elevated to top-tier Event Movie status.  See it on the largest screen you can.  Otherwise, there’s truly little point to it at all.

Therefore, if one is going to experience Moonfall outside of its native habit of the local multiplex, Lionsgate’s 4K Ultra HD disc is unquestionably the way to do so.  The superior clarity and spectrum the format offers is excellently utilized, as Emmerich’s numerous moments of illustrative non-reality take on lucid qualities.  Similarly, the state-of-the-art uncompressed furniture-rumbling audio guarantees that when the world is ending, you’ll really feel it in your ass.  For those looking for a new 4K movie that will boldly show off their home theater’s capabilities, look no further.

A wealth of extensively produced bonus features the likes of which we just don’t see much of anymore.  First up is an audio commentary track with director (and also co-writer) Emmerich and producer/co-writer/composer Harald Kloser.  The upbeat pair walk us through the film scene by scene, sometimes settling too much into unnecessary play-by-play.  They also give tidbits about how filming during pre-vaccine COVID times caused considerable upheaval to their initial plans.

In the very polished hour-long Against All Odds: Making Moonfall, we see a lot more detailed ramifications of their pandemic-mandated production pivots.  Practical location shooting plans get scrapped for built sets and green screens.  Plenty of interviews and copious behind the scenes footage tell a tale of creating Moonfall that at times is more compelling than Moonfall.  In any case, it’s great that Lionsgate saw fit in this day and age to create and include this documentary.

Additionally, there is a half-hour newly created video piece about the true science surrounding the Moon and the history of lunar exploration.  The experts interviewed also addresses Moonfall’s central conceit: could the Moon really be hollow?  (Hmmm…)  Finally, there are a few very quick promotional videos of John Bradley as K.C. Houseman direct addressing whoever might listen to him about his theories before they’re all validated by mass destruction in the movie proper.  (Though not his Elon Musk love, which should be invalidated by current events).

As staggeringly stupid as this painstakingly rendered lunar looniness can be, there’s no denying that the Moon will hit your eye in a whole new way.  Is it, as Dean Martin sang, amore?  Not enough to turn the tide in Moonfall’s favor.  But then again, everything we know is wrong…