‘MOONFALL’ Review: The Best-Worst Film of 2022 Is Here

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

MOONFALL

Rated PG-13, 2 hours

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Carolina Bartczak, Michael Peña, Kelly Yu

There’s not a moment in MOONFALL where director Roland Emmerich doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing – and delivers it magnificently. From the opening scene where two characters playfully bicker over misheard lyrics to Toto’s “Africa” to the last scene where the best-worst line of dialogue in the entire film is spoken, his spectacular symphony of sincerely silly proves to be the right kind of stupid. This disaster flick centered on a crazed conspiracy theorist, a disgraced astronaut/ deadbeat dad and a harried NASA executive/ single mom banding together to save Earth from an alien lifeforce that’s taken over the Moon’s orbit is exactly what we need right now. With little character development, a plot that grows more convoluted as it struggles to conclude and lots of dumb dialogue, it’s cheese on which we all can feast.

Astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) had the misfortune of encountering a mysterious swarm of alien nanobots while in space. Not only did this devastating event rob a colleague of his life, the government refused to recognize it as anything but human error, fracturing their friendship and causing Brian to lose his job, home, marriage, dignity and son’s respect. Ten years later, passionate conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley) notices the moon’s orbital trajectory is off, which throws the balance of Earth and all humanity into chaos. It soon grabs NASA’s attention, and a new mission to the moon is mounted – one that has the trio springing into action before the world ends.

Charlie Plummer and Kelly Yu in MOONFALL. Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Emmerich and co-screenwriters Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen embrace the nonsense in their construction of the action sequences. It’s a mille-feuille of ridiculousness. They even have the straight-faced audacity to reference SPACEBALLS’ “ludicrous speed” right when the trio are caught in their most amusingly absurd scenario, or so we think. The filmmakers then triple down on that, gifting us with even more preposterous, predictable plot developments. Dramatic sequences are equally uproariously farcical. Watching Wilson and Berry endeavor to sell the seriousness of their characters’ situations will assuredly have audiences howling. While Wilson’s work is cardboard, and Berry plays mystified as if questioning the script itself, it’s Bradley who’s the MVP playing the part with pathos and gravitas.

The ways in which the filmmakers connect the narrative points and characters are tissue paper thin, but oddly engrossing. Set-ups for future call-backs (like KC’s problematic IBS and Brian’s bitchin’ refurbished muscle car) are frequently abandoned, leading us to be blissfully baffled by their inclusion. It’s pretty wild how they’ve cast a conspiracy theorist as an “underdog hero” archetype, yet the real world incarnation is anything but heroic. It’s also astounding to see the degree to which the filmmakers soft-pedal and walk back from KC’s profession, given the real world parallel.

Back on Earth, the pack of roving junkie survivalists harassing Brian’s criminal son, aptly named Sonny (Charlie Plummer), Jocinda’s nanny Michelle (Kelly Yu) and young son Jimmy (Zayn Maloney) is a glorious touch that gives these supporting characters obstacles to surmount and cartoonish foes to foil. Intertwined with their B-story is the superfluous C-story involving Brian’s estranged ex-wife Brenda (Carolina Bartczak), her obnoxious new husband (Michael Peña) and two young daughters. They too are tasked with some emotional pull, though not nearly enough to make those feelings land.

Threading commentary that the government isn’t trustworthy into the thematic underbelly of the picture is a clever move by Emmerich, further serving the bombast and insanity within. Kirk M. Petruccelli’s production design is another particularly indelible element with its futuristic interior designs, homage to THE SHINING (now wallpaper on the Los Angeles Motel) and colorful “Fuck the Moon” graffiti on the shuttle Endeavor.

MOONFALL isn’t a good or bad movie. It manages to not fall under those binary critical evaluations. However, it is one of those delightful, delicious “so bad, it’s good” type of films that we all could use more of in our lives. Mission accomplished.

MOONFALL opens in theaters on February 4.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.