Following his 2019 historical war drama, Midway, director Roland Emmerich returns to the world of science fiction in Moonfall from Lionsgate. A mysterious force has just knocked the moon from its orbit around Earth and sent it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all.
However, only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), believe her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our moon is not what we think it is.
I first discovered Roland Emmerich on HBO in 1985 with his sophomore directorial effort Making Contact. In the nineties, Emmerich gave us two enjoyable popcorn flicks in the form of Universal Soldier and Stargate. The latter film gave Emmerich his first take of box office success and arguably his breakthrough as a director. His seventh film, 1996's Independence Day, was not only a box office smash but created a resurgence of the Hollywood disaster film genre that producer Irwin Allen perfected in the 1970s.
Woefully though, the director's subsequent films were usually hit or miss. Granted, I have a soft spot for The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, and White House Down. However, the less we say about 2012, Independence Day: Resurgence, and his mediocre take on Godzilla, the better. Emmerich wrote the script Moonfall with Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen. The ternion of writers begins the film in 2011, introducing us to Jo and Brian on a routine space mission.
Along with a third astronaut, the duo falls victim to an attack that results in the death of the third crew member, Jo falling unconscious and Brian becoming the mission's scapegoat as he can't explain what he had witnessed. The film then jumps to a decade later, where Jo has advanced in her career, while Brian can't seem to hold down a job. When K.C. gets evidence about what's going on, he seeks out Brian in hopes of averting the disaster.
Naturally, through a series of events, K.C. ends up having to go into space with Jo and Brian to save the world. In his prime, Emmerich was a go-to director for science fiction films. Thus one of the reasons that Moonfall is such a letdown of a movie. Let's start with the character of K.C. Houseman, which finds actor John Bradley doing a piss poor imitation of Josh Gad. Ironically Gad was the first choice for the role, but he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Your typical intelligent movie nerd qualms are here, but it doesn't work.
Patrick Wilson brings nothing to the table in our lead role, and he's only here for a paycheck. Wilson is one of the highlights of The Conjuring Universe and can inject life into what's supposed to be popcorn entertainment. But he looks bored in the film. Similar to Wilson, Halle Berry is only here for a check as well. While I did enjoy seeing a woman of color in authority, the script doesn't give Berry enough to do, and all of her character beats are routine.
Since this is a science fiction flick, you know there are a couple of subplots. Michael Peña portrays Tom, married to Brian's ex-wife and tries to build a relationship with his stepson Sonny (Charlie Plummer). Sonny's character figures into the plot when he has to get Jo's son to her ex-husband Doug (Eme Ikwuakor), a military man who wants to nuke the moon instead. However, none of these plots go anywhere.
Reportedly featuring a budget of $140 million, Moonfall's special effects could've looked better, and the film could've also been cut by maybe 30 minutes. When the film ends with a sequel setup, most audiences won't care.
Final Grade: D
Moonfall opens in theaters tomorrow February 3rd.