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"MOONFALL"
(2022) (Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi/Action: Former astronauts and a conspiracy theorist try to save the day when the moon starts falling out of its orbit and threatens all life on Earth.
PLOT:

More than a decade after a tragedy in space, former Space Shuttle crewmembers Brian Harper (PATRICK WILSON) and Jocinda Fowl (HALLE BERRY) are no longer friends and have gone their separate ways due to Brian being blamed for the accident. She's now the deputy director at NASA and has a young son, Jimmy (ZAYN MALONEY), with her ex-husband and current military officer Doug Davidson (EME IKWUAKOR).

Meanwhile, Brian is unemployed, late with his rent, mostly estranged from his teenage son, Sonny (CHARLIE PLUMMER), and likewise divorced from Brenda (CAROLINA BARTCZAK) who's since remarried car dealership owner Tom Lopez (MICHAEL PEÑA).

Little do Brian and Jocinda realize they'll be reunited by the discovery that the moon's orbit around Earth is rapidly decreasing, something earlier noticed by conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (JOHN BRADLEY). He's long believed that the moon is an alien-built superstructure known as a Dyson Sphere that's fueled by a white dwarf star inside it.

But none of them realize that it's an alien AI entity that's changed the orbit, resulting in increased gravity and debris raining down on Earth. With time running out and live-in student Michelle (KELLY YU) taking care of Jimmy, Jocinda tries to convince Brian that they're the world's only hope, and with KC's help they set out to save the day.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10

There's a scene in the original "Star Wars" where the Millennium Falcon is pursuing an Imperial TIE fighter. Luke notes that it's headed for a small moon and Han replies he can get him before he gets there. Wise Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, senses what he can't quite yet see in full detail and states, "That's no moon. It's a space station."

That, of course, was the infamous Death Star, and despite not being a moon in the traditional sense, the huge, moon-like orb posed a very clear threat to our band of heroes and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. All of which resulted in an all-out assault to destroy it before it potentially wiped out a planet.

A different moon -- not quite so far, far away, and very clearly in our current galaxy -- poses a different sort of threat to humankind in Roland Emmerich's sci-fi disaster movie, "Moonfall." The prolific director is no stranger to the disaster movie genre once reigned over by the late Irwin Allen.

Having directed "Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow," "2012," "Godzilla" and so on -- while some might describe some of his other cinematic efforts as disasters of other sorts -- the filmmaker would appear to be the right man to helm an offering about the moon falling from its orbit and heading toward Earth, certain to keep special effects crews employed for months at a time depicting all of the resultant, large-scale destruction.

The Wikipedia entry for him states "reviewers often criticize Emmerich's films for relying heavily on visual effects and suffering from clichéd dialogue, flimsy and formulaic narratives, numerous scientific and historical inaccuracies, illogical plot developments, and lack of character depth." To which I can add -- having just seen this latest offering -- check, check, check, check, check, and, well, check.

That said, I'm usually okay with dumb, big-budget offerings that suffer from that sextet of bad filmmaking if everyone involved is one hundred percent on board with the approach and fully leans into the guilty pleasure experience. At times, this film -- written by Emmerich and co-scribes Harald Kloser & Spenser Cohen -- offers exactly that and veers on the edge of being goofy fun.

But it pushes its luck -- and thus chances of entertaining someone like yours truly -- by continually getting dumber and more preposterous as it goes to the point that such issues become distractions that pull you out of the experience rather than add to it.

The flick starts somewhat promisingly enough as we watch Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry, and another actor -- who might as well be wearing a "Star Trek" red shirt as we're fully aware he's a definite goner -- playing astronauts whose satellite repair job fails, what with something smashing into it, them, and their shuttle before drilling into the moon.

Flashforward a decade-plus, and -- natch -- Wilson's character is down on his luck, divorced and at odds with his wife's (Carolina Bartczak) new hubby (Michael Pena), and mostly estranged from his teenage son (Charlie Plummer). Meanwhile, Berry's character might similarly be divorced from her DoD husband (Eme Ikwuakor) with whom she has a young boy (Zayn Maloney), but she's moved up the ranks at NASA to serve as the Deputy Director.

Yet, she's unaware of an anomaly already discovered by conspiracy theorist KC (John Bradley) who not only believes the moon is an alien-built superstructure fueled by a white dwarf star at its center, but also that said celestial object is headed toward Earth.

Needless to say, the three end up teaming together to save the day, all while we have cutaways to their family members trying to survive the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks headed their way. The former -- if downright ludicrous most of the time -- is at least somewhat tolerable, but the latter does zip for the story and feels like padding in the film that clocks in at a bit more than two hours.

While I'm certainly no Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can say with certainty, "That's no fun. It's a mess." And a progressively bad one at that. "Moonfall" rates as a generous 3 out of 10.




Reviewed February 2, 2022 / Posted February 4, 2022


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