“Moonfall” shows Roland Emmerich is still the master of disaster

A ragtag group races to beat the clock as the moon hurls toward Earth on a collision course. Image courtesy of IMDb

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore. But when the moon plummets toward Earth and threatens all life, that’s just the latest Roland Emmerich disaster movie. Emmerich is a director closely associated with the genre since he first blew up New York City in 1996 with “Independence Day,” starring Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Since then, the director has brought about the end of the world every few years with other apocalyptic films, such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012,” that seemingly leave both audiences and critics divided over their quality. His latest film, “Moonfall,” continues this trend by treating viewers to Emmerich’s trademark visual spectacle at the expense of any real depth. 

The premise of “Moonfall” is exactly what it sounds like. Earth’s moon has fallen out of its orbit and is on a collision course with the planet that will effectively cause the mass global extinction of humanity. Soon, a ragtag group consisting of a disgraced former astronaut (Patrick Wilson), a conspiracy theorist and the newly-appointed head of NASA blast into space to investigate the extraterrestrial source causing the moon to fall in order to put a stop to it and save the planet while their families try to survive back on Earth. 

Much of “Moonfall” feels like Emmerich is checking off a laundry list of characters, scenes and visuals that audiences have come to expect from his movies. The film’s emotional core is centered on a strained father-son dynamic — a favorite of the director — while the plot combines the extraterrestrial concept that first put him on the map with the visuals of natural disasters such as flooding, freezing and falling debris that many of his subsequent films have taken delight in showing off. Characters fit into molds Emmerich fans know well, from the frazzled expert disregarded by authority figures while trying to warn them — in this film played by “Game of Thrones” actor John Bradley — to the minor stock villains such as selfish government officials and the slimy new husband of the protagonist’s ex-wife. Michael Peña of the “Ant-Man” films plays the latter convincingly enough despite being an actor audiences associate with likable characters while Halle Berry rounds out the core cast as NASA’s new leader and a former colleague of Wilson’s character. 


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