GeekDad: Ten Things Parents Should Know About ‘Moonfall’

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Moonfall, the latest sci-fi/disaster flick from sci-fi/disaster flick auteur Roland Emmerich hit theaters this week. Read on to find out if it’s worth risking a trip to the theater. 

1. What is it about? Something is living inside the moon and is causing it to de-orbit and plummet towards the Earth.

2. That sounds bad. In another movie, it definitely would be. Here? Mostly, not so much. The moon’s sudden approach (timelines are a bit fuzzy, but it seems like it only takes a few days) basically causes some really great surfing conditions, some adjustment of property values on the coasts, and just enough mayhem for the special FX companies to justify their paychecks. But if anyone thinks for a moment in watching this movie that any of the characters, much less our lovely little planet here, is in any real peril at any point, it only means that they’ve literally never seen any other Emmerich film.

3. Wait, can you go back to the “thing living in the moon?” You meant on the moon, right? Oh, how I wish I did mean “on.” But no. The movie’s obligatory mad scientist (played by John Bradley, who thankfully never has to hold any doors) is a crackpot who believes that the moon is actually a giant alien machine powered by a white dwarf at its center. For the last few billion years that worked out OK, but now the nanobots from Big Hero 6 are inexplicitly making said power source unreliable. And of course it turns out that he’s absolutely correct, because scientists don’t know what they’re doing so I guess it’s possible that literally everything we know about the moon, astrophysics, and Halle Berry are wrong. 

4. But it’s a Roland Emmerich disaster film. You can’t have been expecting much, right? My friends and family know that the only genre of “better-than-even-odds-it’ll-be-bad” movies I like more than disaster films are shark films. And you can’t be a fan of disaster movies—or a fan of sci-fi (or, increasingly these days, shark movies)—without being able to suspend your disbelief. And normally I’m happy to go along with Emmerich for the ride. City-sized alien spaceships are here mostly just to kill us, and Jeff Goldblum with a Mac is our only hope? Sure, no problem. A sudden ice age is the only way Jake Gyllenhaal can hook up with Emmy Rossum? Good times. A bunch of terrorists can take over the White House by crashing planes and helicopters into it? Sign me up. 

But never before as Emmerich, or possibly any other director, asked audiences to suspend as much disbelief as he does here. There’s plenty of stuff I’m willing to accept for a movie. NASA discovers something is wrong with the moon and is able to send three astronauts to lunar orbit the very next day? OK. When NASA donated the space shuttle Endeavor to the California Science Center in LA they didn’t remove the engines or computers or anything and could totally just tow it up to Vandenburg and launch it again? Yup, fine. Someone could drive up to the Griffith Observatory and find a place to park within an hour that isn’t a mile down the hill? That one’s a huge stretch, but again I’ll go along.

But when all of those and so, so much more are cobbled together into a 130 minutes of explosions and people running around and spouting truly meaningless technobabble, with a good old fashioned car chase/running gun battle thrown in because why not?, it just gets to that point that the disbelief doesn’t just need suspending. It needs to be completely and utterly destroyed. And as much as I wanted to enjoy this movie, it was just way too much in the end.

5. What about the acting? Next year, the Academy Awards needs to add a special category to recognize Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, and Michael Pena for their ability to somehow say the words Emmerich and his writing partners, Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen, put down on paper. Because, wow, was the writing terrible. But given what they had to work with, they all did surprisingly well.

6. OK, but the effects were great, right? Sure, I guess. 

7. Is there anything particularly offensive in the movie? Other than the plot, pacing, and writing, and the fact that somehow it’s over 2 hours long, no. There was at least one “s” word, and the “f” word is shown spray-painted on the side of Endeavor, but all-in-all, it’s a pretty tame movie. As it almost always the case in Emmerich films, there’s no sex. Even the two characters who clearly ended up together in an earlier draft of the script don’t so much as hug. 

8. So it deserves its PG-13 rating? The MPA said it’s PG-13 “for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use.” The first two are of course true, but there’s minimal blood and nothing approaching gore. One could assume that lots and lots and lots of people would probably end up dead when the moon almost crashes into the earth, but those deaths are more implied than shown. Disaster action? Oh how I wish it had 100 times more of that. I already covered the strong language, and I’m pretty sure the “drug use” bit comes from the fact that Bradley’s character suffers from an array of mental health issues and is shown taking his medication for those more than once. 

9. I’m still concerned about the pandemic, so I’m not super eager to return to theaters. Is this the movie to make me venture out? Oh heavens no.

10. Anything after the credits? I have no idea. I don’t hate myself enough to sit through 12 minutes of the people who somehow are still proud enough of the movie to keep their names attached to it to see if there’s a scene setting up the Moonfall cinematic universe or something, But I’d bet there isn’t one.

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