A disaster movie in every sense of the word, “Moonfall” instantly becomes the biggest swing-and-a-miss of Roland Emmerich’s popcorn packed career. And yes, I saw “Anonymous,” his “Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays” debacle, and the better-intentioned bust “Stonewall.”
“Moonfall” is too big to be a bad B-movie, too malnourished to pass for an A-picture and not bad enough to even amount to campy fun.
What’s wrong with it? Start with the cast’s commitment to the nutty “moon is actually an alien mega-structure” whose warranty has just expired plot. Halle Berry has an Oscar and just looks dazed, first scene to last. Patrick Wilson wholly bought into “The Conjuring” universe but can’t even summon up a wink to the camera here. Even Donald Sutherland’s cameo in his latest “Here’s the cover-up” conspiracy buff is as half-hearted as we’ve ever seen him.
“Game of Thrones” alumnus John Bradley, as the REAL conspiracy buff, the one with the mad orbital math skills, is not ready for his close-up. And Charlie Plummer seems confused about why his presence was required.
The bit players surrounding them are, to a one, underwhelming — zero charisma in the lot.
Only the durable Michael Peña comes off unscathed, largely thanks to the small scope of his role.
The effects don’t look like models or purely digital recreations of a clockwork moon, earthquakes and tidal waves, but digitized models. No Roland “2012/Independence Day/Day After Tomorrow/Midway” Emmerich effects extravaganza has ever looked this fake.
The dialogue is mostly dull variations of “Come on people, think outside the box!” and “We all have our problems now. And the moon falling to Earth isn’t one of them.”
And that story. Oh my stars and garters.
It starts with alternate history, a space shuttle accident that was related to what’s about to go wrong on a bigger scale later on. There’s a cover-up, with Mr. Conspiracy (Sutherland in a wheelchair) setting the record straight about “One giant leap for yadda yadda yadda.”
A disgraced and divorced astronaut (Wilson) is out of the loop. He former shuttlemate (Berry) is still with NASA but…confused.
The only guy with a clue and without “clearance” or secrecy obligations is British crank (Bradley) who supports himself as a custodian and has the wherewithal to impersonate scientists so that he can collect raw data on the moon’s orbit. He’s half-crazy, speaking to an audience of the more completely crazed.
“I love Elon!”
Word gets out just as the moonshine is about to hit the fan.
There are characters and plot devices borrowed from other Emmerich films, the legitimate blockbusters. Charlie Plummer is the estranged son of the disgraced astronaut, trying to get himself and others to safety, for starters.
But with nobody all that committed to playing up the doom, and only the British “megastructurist” having the potential to be any fun, the picture never had a chance.
Bradley is no Jeff Goldblum in “ID4,” no Woody Harrelson in “2112.” To spread the blame around, Wilson is no Kurt Russell, Will Smith or Dennis Quaid, either.
There’s barely a hint of fun and nary a drop of pathos in any of this. And with the effects rarely “special” and never all that impressive, “Moonfall” never rises, never sets and barely distracts one from whatever might be on your cell phone (very rude in a cinema) or endlessly checking your watch.
Rating: PG-13 for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Carolina Bartczak, Charlie Plummer, Michael Peña and Donald Sutherland
Credits: Directed by Roland Emmerich, scripted by Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 2:00