Billed as the ‘Master of Disaster’, director Roland Emmerich’s films just seemed to hit harder in pre-9/11 world. Sure, no-one turns off 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow when it plays on ITV2 (it’s been on five times already today) – and 2009’s 2012 is enjoyable if only to spot the precise moment that John Cusack realises his career has taken a horrible turn.
But not since 1996 and Independence Day has Emmerich made a movie that can be considered an all-time great. Maybe seeing a plot line from one of his works played out for real, with real suffering, a real tragedy, soured the German filmmaker’s taste for all-out carnage. After all, the director’s most recent project was the relatively cerebral Midway in 2019. The bad news is that Moonfall isn’t a great movie. The good news is that it’s hugely enjoyable for most of its running time.
The premise of Moonfall, that the moon is an alien megastructure intent on destroying earth may well have been extrapolated from one of Joe Rogan’s tinfoil hat-wearing guests. And yet inside the perimeters of fiction, such pseudoscience joins Emmerich’s usual beats (a fallen hero seeking redemption, parents sacrificing themselves for their children, a deranged yet likeable conspiracy theorist) in making Moonfall a comfortable treat. It’s like pulling on your favourite sweater, but the sweater is on fire and the sleeves have dynamite in them.
It’s a likeable cast too. Few cinemagoers would find much to dislike about Patrick Wilson (returning from Midway), Halle Berry (though like the aforementioned Cusack, she sports a look of sadness that suggests she knows the Oscars are a long way from here) and – best of all – John Bradley from Game Of Thrones, who essentially plays Samwell Tarly in space. Bradley, perhaps the only actor who has ever looked at the oeuvre of Nick Frost and thought “that’s what I want to do”, is the best thing about Moonfall that isn’t something exploding by a zillion miles.
And there should be no doubt that Emmerich can still visualise the end times like no-one else (yeah Michael Bay, you heard). There’s a scene where a space shuttle attempts to outrun a tidal wave. It’s silly, yes, but Moonfall could be sillier still. More bombastic. It could be funnier. Bradley – as the comic relief conspiracist – works hard for his laughs and deserves each that he lands. And – as this is Hollywood’s own pandemic – it’s 30 minutes longer than it should be. But after where we’ve all been since 2020, such criticisms seem almost churlish, almost petty. Moonfall is what multiplexes were made for.
- Director: Roland Emmerich
- Starring: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley
- Release date: February 3