The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Movie review: “Moonfall” disappoints with generic storyline

4 min read

“Moonfall” is a disaster movie about the supposed end of the world. @johnbradleywest /


Staff Writer

“Moonfall” is the latest addition to the disaster flick genre. A tedious affair.

The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, who has dominated this genre for some time, directing films such as “Independence Day,” “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

The cast is star-studded, featuring delightful Patrick Wilson as astronaut Brian Harper, Oscar-winner Halle Berry as astronaut Jocinda “Jo” Fowler and John Bradley of “Game of Thrones” as conspiracy theorist KC Houseman.

However, the main star of the film is the moon. 

Yeah, that’s right; it’s the most compelling part of the film.

The earth is doomed because it is an Emmerich film, but also because the moon is falling, hence the incredibly on-the-nose name. However, lack of imagination in the plot is not the problem; it is the poor execution of those interesting ideas that mar an otherwise well-scored and well-crafted feature. 

Those familiar with Emmerich’s filmography would not be surprised at the introduction of aliens, with world-ending ambition, as the main antagonist. However, Emmerich, who is also a writer and producer of this film, attempts to subvert expectations by introducing a second group of aliens as a separate set of protagonists. Multiple switchbacks, odd pacing and direction choices riddle this film, leaving the audience feeling like they have suffered debilitating intellectual whiplash. Undoubtedly, Emmerich was attempting to re-capture the magic of his earlier films, but the result is a scattered mess. 

The opening scene of the movie is a near-shot-for-shot rip from the movie “Gravity” by Alfonso Cuaron. Without going into spoilers, disaster strikes, because it is a disaster movie, and the moon begins to fall. A key feature of disaster movies is watching the world go to hell with fake news reports and politicians and scientists searching for answers, but even that element is rather listless and poorly executed. Rather, Emmerich focuses on the familial components of the lead character’s lives, no doubt hoping to create some sympathy for the leads and increase the stakes of the upcoming mission. Instead, these scenes come off as rather wooden and unconvincingly portrayed. At one point, I was even rooting for the moon to win. 

As the situation deteriorates, Earth’s leaders formulate a plan that inevitably fails, leaving Earth’s top minds searching for answers.

Enter astronaut maverick Brian Harper, a generic hero with a generic name, played by Patrick Wilson. Only he can save the day because he plays by his own rules. And you know he’s a maverick because he owns a motorbike and wears leather jackets, which means he’s a hero. Think of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” but good at science.

Halle Berry functions as a foil to Wilson’s lead character, bringing class and intelligence to the role. Unfortunately, she is relegated to the role of chaperoning Wilson’s character through the plot. The film probably would have been better if she was the lead, wearing leather jackets and riding motorcycles, and Wilson was her dorky, little science sidekick. 

The last of the leads in this film is KC Houseman, another terrible name, played by John Bradley. Bradley plays the conspiracy theorist, who is actually right for once. He warns the heroes of the incoming doom and, for some reason, must accompany them on their secret mission to steal a rocket ship and fly to the moon. He’s downgraded to the role of the bumbling, overweight, comic relief sidekick. This is something Hollywood has been in love with for years, unfortunately, and really needs to progress with the times. However, Bradley is an accomplished actor and makes the role his own; you even feel sympathy for him and his B-plot, something that is rather elusive in the rest of the film.

The plot progresses in predictable fashion, and the trio makes it to the moon after flying through a tsunami. 

Yes. A tsunami. 

This movie takes enormous liberties with the rules of science and physics. During their journey, the film is intercut with scenes of the moon breaking apart in Earth’s atmosphere, creating stunning cinematic landscape shots and filling the viewer with awe, but not particularly deepening an already thin plot. There is also a boring B-plot where Wilson’s family is searching for supplies and they have to fight groups of raiders because apparently humanity devolves into baser instincts once there is no electricity for one week. 

The film has a lackadaisical nature in nearly all aspects. During serious scenes, the actors hardly react to grave news. Even in the final wrap up scenes, the hopeful tone is at odds with the surrounding reality of immense ecological destruction. Sometimes these bizarre scenes can be humorous, but, oftentimes, they only serve to remind the viewer that they’re watching a terrible movie with a spiritless plot.

Eventually, the heroes succeed, but not without a modicum of self-reflection, selfless service and self-sacrifice…. I’m just kidding, it’s an Emmerich film. They win because they’re human.

If audiences weren’t dragged through enough misery, the final scene sets up a sequel. Emmerich reveals himself to be incredibly optimistic and out of touch at the same time. 

“Moonfall” was released in the U.S. on Feb. 4, 2022, by Lionsgate. The film received generally negative reviews from critics. The budget of the movie, as disclosed by Lionsgate, was 146 million dollars. 

The final verdict: As “Moonfall” touches down in theaters, if you are not a fan of space disaster movies, do your best to dodge it.