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David Quantick: A Pleasing Romance Story Focuses On Sparring

The film Moonfall may be the first to pose the question: what if the moon fell? You’ve perhaps already figured it out by now, but it’s profoundly ridiculous. Increasingly, characters speak of the moon as though it were a character, like New York in every middle-class drama. It has received reactions ranging from “f*** the moon” to “the moon will help us!”

Its rising tides wash over cities in a way characteristic of its director, disaster king Roland Emmerich (think Godzilla or The Day After Tomorrow). In contrast, the skewed effect of gravity causes everyone to bounce around like they’re trapped in a giant inflatable castle. As stone-faced presenters make sweeping statements like “looting has become a favorite pastime in the United Kingdom.” Would you expect anything else from Moonfall? The choice is either to indulge Emmerich’s grand, American daydream – with all its bombast and all – or to steer clear.

In the film, Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson play the role of astronauts Jocinda Fowler and Brian Harper, whose disastrous mission ends in death and Brian’s abrupt dismissal. While being charged with negligence, he swears something extraterrestrial messed with the ship. Jocinda, unconscious for most of the event, doesn’t believe him.

Over the next few years, a conspiracy theorist/amateur scientist, KC Houseman (John Bradley), secretly acquires data proving the moon is going off course. It fits perfectly with his theories about what exactly is occurring inside the earth’s satellite – something too good to be spoiled and too illogical to be explained coherently.

In any case, there’s a government cover-up to expose, which allows Berry, with the absolute sincerity of an Oscar winner, to deliver the line: “I work for the American people and you’re keeping them in the dark.” Perhaps it’s worth asking why Emmerich still heroizes conspiracy theorists at this juncture in history.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to read malice into a movie based entirely on the idea of the moon falling. During her meeting with the military, Jocinda doesn’t have to ask what their plan is. They’ll nuke the moon. Could the radioactive fallout wipe out the entire human population? Yes, but when the moon misbehaves, the only solution is to destroy it.

After her boss gives up on the moon and runs, the conspiracy theorist and the two astronauts, one disgraced and the other randomly promoted to Nasa’s directorship are left to save the world. Moonfall’s main flaw is that its heroes are inevitably weighed down by blandly characterized family members, as with all Emmerich films. As these earthbound humans dodge moon bandits and jump between bits of floating earth like Rayman, we must follow them, too.

Brian is initially hesitant to help Jocinda stop the moon from falling since his wayward son (Charlie Plummer) was jailed for joyriding. Jocinda reminds him that the moon falling should be the priority. The experience is both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s exactly as absurd as you could ever imagine.

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