Moonfall Movie review: Moonfall isn't Independence Day, but it's still a lot of fun.

Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry, and Game of Thrones John Bradley feature in this rich slice of lunar lunacy.

Moonfall Movie review: Moonfall isn't Independence Day, but it's still a lot of fun.
Moonfall Movie review: Moonfall isn't Independence Day, but it's still a lot of fun.

Moonfall is a science fiction disaster film about a ragtag group of astronauts, conspiracy theorists, and lost youngsters who must band together to preserve the earth after the moon turns against us.

The moon, to be precise.

What is Moonfall's funniest scene? Without giving anything away, it may be the first scene, in which the directors can't think of anything else to do with Oscar winner and action actress Halle Berry, so they simply knock her out. It could be a product placement in which a character uses the sports mode on a Lexus NX to defy gravity. It may be when someone says, "The moon is coming for us!" and they don't mean in a general or figurative sense; they actually mean the moon is approaching them from the horizon.

Moonfall, on the other hand, isn't ludicrous enough for most of its runtime. Moonfall is an obvious attempt by director Roland Emmerich to rekindle the thrill of his distinctively '90s alien invasion film Independence Day. Independence Day was totally ludicrous, yet it was so full of legendary moments, endearing characters, and stunning vistas that it overshadowed the cliched plot. Above all, everyone took it seriously, even the hilarity.

The silliness, in particular.

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Instead of rolling your eyes at the numerous follies, you find yourself hoping for something truly ridiculous to happen throughout the first half of Moonfall.

The opening scene is a complete rip-off of Gravity. The backstory of one of the characters includes not one, but two divorces (both boring). The catastrophe movie portion sees the world go to hell in a handcart, as told almost exclusively through the most clumsily put-together news broadcasts imaginable.

Still, if you continue with it, Moonfall will inevitably veer into lunacy. As the moon threatens Earth, the by-the-numbers carnage seen in a thousand other global disaster movies is replaced by original set pieces, such as gravity going wild, that are unique to this concept. By the conclusion, the filmmakers have thrown their hands in the air and crammed in every weird sci-fi hypothesis they can think of, such as a Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica DVD library crammed into a space ship and launched into orbit (with only one engine working, obvs). Against all odds, I was drawn into Moonfall's orbit towards the end.

In terms of characters, you'll never see anything but actors doing their parts in Moonfall. For the most part, this entails donning a uniform, yelling their one line, and then vanishing. Those that stay a little longer appear to have just finished reading the screenplay and are undecided about whether or not they want to be in the film. Charlie Plummer, in particular, gives a performance that borders on dead-eyed anger, as if he's a fast-food worker forced to work a double shift.

As the Poseable Astronaut Action Figure, a jacked and stubbly Patrick Wilson gives it his all, at least in the lead part. Like the scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood where Leonardo DiCaprio's washed-up movie star Rick Dalton pushes himself into quickie Italian action pictures, his smoldering intensity is always an inch away from a sneer. Meanwhile, Halle Berry adds a steely touch of class to the film as she takes charge of NASA and investigates conspiracy theories, though her thankless role mainly entails cajoling the manly hero into saving the world instead of her, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he has a motorcycle and she doesn't.

The problem is that the characters in the picture, from the square-jawed astronauts to the redneck looters, aren't real people. They're movie characters, nothing more than cardboard cutouts reciting lines from previous films. And about halfway through the movie, I started to wonder if this was the key to uncovering Moonfall's enigma. Perhaps it's not a bad B-movie, but a brilliant parody of Hollywood spectacle.

Moonfall has the appearance of a big-budget, effects-driven Hollywood movie, yet it's also not. Moonfall is an updated version of 1950s B-movies, 1970s conspiracy thrillers, and catastrophe pictures, all fed back into the Hollywood machine, much how the celebrated French new wave of the 1950s was inspired by a fondness for American noir films. It's like a spaghetti Western or one of those French comics with American heroes: it's set in America, but it's not the real America or even the real planet Earth. It takes place in Hollywoodland, a fictional world where men are men, bad guys are terrible, and cars explode when shot. The universe of Moonfall is filled with hunky astronauts whose spurs jingle in orbit. It's a world where the base's pencilnecks only serve to bring the true heroes down. It's a universe where being an alcoholic absentee father is actually a good thing since that uncontrollable energy will save the world.

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Maybe I'm reading too much into the fact that director Roland Emmerich is German, but it's easy to think of Moonfall as a view of Hollywood from the outside. Compare Independence Day to Michael Bay's similar astronauts-versus-asteroid film Armageddon: It's different when gung-ho remarks and star-spangled jingoism are delivered by an actual American like Bay. Although Roland Emmerich's films are just as absurd as Michael Bay's, there's a chance Moonfall could be some kind of arch meta-comment on the excesses and artifice of the Hollywood zeitgeist.

Or it could simply be the stupidest film ever made. I can't wait for the next installment!

After asteroids and comets, Hollywood has devised a solution for what to do next in Earth-threatening disaster films. Moonfall (directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed Independence Day) imagines what would happen if the moon collided with our planet. On Twitter, NASA and Moonfall are having a friendly debate about that crazy premise.

On Tuesday, the NASA Moon team started a Twitter thread with the following message: "Our nearest neighbor, although being just 240,000 miles away, has an impact on our lives here on Earth. Here are a few reasons why we should be thankful that the moon's orbit is constant (no offense, Moonfall) "and labeled the film Moonfall

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It's all in good fun, of course. NASA isn't taking seriously a highly fictitious film starring Halle Berry as a NASA official and former astronaut who is attempting to save the planet from the threat of a lunar landing.

A space shuttle is dragged out of retirement as part of the narrative. Moonfall posted a clip from a behind-the-scenes documentary in which the producers discuss having NASA specialists help on the project. "Whatever you do, you want to get it right the first time. Even if the film is amazing, "In the video, Emmerich says.

The complete NASA Moon thread that sparked this discussion is worth reading because it contains information from several NASA divisions regarding how the moon impacts the Earth's rotation, tides, and ability to support life.

Moonfall hits theatres in February, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the moon isn't going to fall on us.