When I reviewed the Roland Emmerich disaster flick “2012” 13 years ago, I recited the already well-worn Emmerich character archetypes. There is the intrepid scientist who warns everyone about impending doom and a third-party hero who just wants to save his family and the world, in that order, including his estranged (former) wife and her new beau. There is a nutjob conspiracy theorist, and a bevy of barely realized secondary players who supply risible comic relief and/or cannon fodder for all the CGI cataclysms.
“Moonfall,” Emmerich’s latest sci-fi disaster (in more ways than one), follows that template. This time, global annihilation comes from the moon, well, falling out of orbit and into Earth’s atmosphere, triggering an array of loosely scientific-based calamities, such as major tidal shifts, gravitational fluctuations, and atmospheric loss. Turns out the moon is a hollowed-out megastructure, constructed by an ancient civilization and now under attack by a mysterious alien entity aiming to … you know, never mind.
Saving the world falls to Brian (Patrick Wilson), a disgraced ex-astronaut and the aforementioned hero who wants to save his family, including his delinquent son, his ex-wife (Carolina Bartczak), and her new husband, Tom (Michael Peña, here for the check), who is a wealthy Lexus dealer because … product placement! Brian reteams with his former NASA mate Jocinda (Halle Berry), along with K.C. (John Bradley, a poor man’s Josh Gad who actually replaced Gad in the cast during pre-production), the conspiracy theorist/intrepid scientist who warned everyone for years about impending lunar doom that he had no rational reason to actually know.
If “Moonfall” were only the same melage of bad scriptwriting, bad acting, and bad character development as Emmerich’s previous films not named “Independence Day” (the first one) and “The Patriot,” it would simply be another movie not worth watching.
But even Emmerich’s many misfires manage more than a few eye-popping moments, whether it’s blowing up the White House (in at least three films), the frozen NYC skyline in “The Day After Tomorrow,” or the WWII dogfights in “Midway.” For “Moonfall,” the visual effects look like they were created on a Commodore 64, even down to the basic green-screening. During one horribly contrived digital car chase, a Lexus SUV goes all Dukes of Hazzard, skipping across a collapsing Colorado chasm during an avalanche.
It is as if Emmerich binge-watched “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Gravity,” and “Interstellar,” then set out to make the dopiest distillation possible and pigeonhole it into his usual tiresome template. It is a perfect storm of orbital awfulness, a film that is indescribably dopey before it becomes excruciatingly idiotic.
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