REVIEW: Despite making a mockery of science, ‘Moonfall’ entertains

There’s a cat in this movie named “Fuzz Aldrin.” I’m not saying that alone made the movie good, but it didn’t hurt.

Patrick Wilson plays Brian Harper in “Moonfall.” Once a decorated astronaut, the film picks up with Harper falling from grace as he appears to be responsible for a disaster in space. Harper attributes the calamity to a mysterious swarm of particles, but the heads of NASA don’t believe his story. That begins to change, though, when the Earth’s Moon moves off its course and on a crash trajectory with the planet, seemingly caused by the same swarm.

A man who predicted this would develop is KC Houseman (John Bradley), an unofficial scientist who’s been theorizing about the Moon for quite some time. Houseman and Harper eventually get into contact and decide that they need to take action, and they move forward in doing so with the help of Harper’s old colleague Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), who’s now a higher-up at NASA.

“Moonfall” has a lot of things that have become staples in director Roland Emmerich’s filmography. There are mega disasters, comedic relief in tense situations, government officials who are in the wrong, estranged spouses and a complete disregard for science.

Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. “Moonfall” is, thankfully, an example of the former. The film gets off to a really hot start with an intense opening sequence and it keeps a snappy pace with exciting scenes until the end.

It’s also a bit more streamlined than some of Emmerich’s other entries from the last two decades. There’s not a presidential character in the movie given extra focus, nor is there as much melodrama that sometimes shows up in his movies. This one is much more direct, focusing mainly on the trio of lead characters and their families.

The result is a film that’s simpler on story, but still big on adventure. It’s a fun, amusement park ride-like film made to be enjoyed at the theater with popcorn.

What really helps the movie land smoothly is the cast featured and the characters they play. KC is a good example. He easily could have been a useless, comic-relief conspiracy theorist. Pretty much what Brian Tyree Henry’s character was in “Godzilla Vs. Kong.”

Courtesy Lionsgate Films.

Instead, while a bit disheveled and clearly more of a humorous character, KC is still an endearing, brave and useful part of the good guys. The character helps a lot with his smarts and Bradley does well in balancing KC’s comedic side and heart.

The other two leads are solid, too. In genre films like “The Conjuring” and “Watchmen,” Patrick Wilson has been reliably good on screen, and it’s no different here. Wilson captures the bravery and resilience that his character shows in the movie.

Berry, meanwhile, is convincing as the NASA commander in the film, displaying leadership qualities throughout the picture.

The film also features a subplot about Harper’s son, Sonny (Charlie Plummer) trying to protect Fowler’s son Jimmy (Zayn Maloney). He’s assisted in doing so with Jimmy’s nanny, Michelle (Kelly Yu). It’s a fairly generic subplot, but watching the trio of young characters stick together and help each other survive is actually kind of compelling.

Visually, “Moonfall” is a film where Emmerich actually dials back the destruction. The Earth still gets slammed with disasters, sure, but there’s no iconic moments like the White House getting destroyed in “Independence Day,” for example.

The film still offers entertaining set pieces with characters fighting to stay alive. This is especially true in the third act in scenes with the main three characters trying to stop the moon.

The premise of “Moonfall” is absurd and it does retread familiar Emmerich territory, yet the execution is alright this time around. The characters are likable, the cast is dedicated and overall, the movie takes audiences on a fun adventure. 3.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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