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Laramie Movie Scope: Moonfall

A very far out science fiction film

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 1, 2022 – I rented a copy of this film out of curiosity regarding the bad reviews it was getting (4.5 out of 10 at rottentomatoes). The bad reviews had persuaded me not to spend money to see this at a theater, but I figured a two dollar rental for a bluray is not much to risk. It turns out $2 is a bit pricey.

This movie is getting bad reviews because it really is bad. The acting isn't as bad as the screenplay, but the look of the film is also irritating. It looks like it is whitewashed. The images are not crisp. It is a very dull-looking film.

The plot of the film is crazy. The moon suddenly leaves its orbit and goes spiraling in towards the earth, a violation of Newton's laws of motion, since the moon is actually moving away from the earth, not toward it. There is an explanation for this, but that is really crazy, regarding artificial intelligence, ancient space visitors and “megastructures.”

The plot is all bogged down in the uninteresting personal relationships of the three main characters, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson of “Watchmen”) Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry of “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum”) and K.C. Houseman (John Bradley of “Game of Thrones”). The screenplay is built like a disaster movie, in that it tries, but fails to establish characters to care about before they are put into harm's way.

Not only does it fail to do this, but is also fails to explain what is going on until it is too late. Instead, the screenplay waits and waits until the final big action scenes start to rev up, then it comes to a screeching halt for a few minutes of intensive exposition. The explanations stop the action right when audiences should be enjoying it.

This is unfortunate, because Wilson, Berry and Bradley are good actors. They almost make their characters worth caring about, despite the drawbacks of the screenplay, but there is just too much headwind to overcome. This film is written and directed by Roland Emmerich, who has made some entertaining films, such as “Independence Day,” and “2012,” so he knows how to do it. The plot of this film, by the way, has some similarities to another Emmerich film, “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

This is a film that removes most of the science from science fiction. There are a lot of science errors in the story. The film argues, for instance, that is plausible for most of the astronomers in the world to be unaware that the moon is getting closer to the earth, and that it is up to a disgruntled janitor to sound the alarm on social media. If the moon was getting closer to the earth, it would appear larger in the sky. You'd think even non-astronomers would notice that. Hell, even astrologers would notice that.

Even so, I like big, dumb science fiction movies that are just as wrong on the science, like “2012” and “The Core,” but those are more entertaining, and more fun to watch than “Moonfall.” It just lacks that wacky sense of fun you expect from a crazy science fiction movie.

I think this film had the potential to be as much fun as “2012” or “The Core,” but it takes itself a bit too seriously and does not lean enough into the development of the kind of eccentric characters and halfway plausible plot you need to pull off a crazy, dumb, and fun science fiction movie.

The character in this film that worked best is K.C. Houseman, a kind of nerdy reluctant hero, who everyone thinks is crazy until it turns out that his crazy ideas are true. Houseman is the character who embodies what this film was trying to be. John Bradley almost carries it off, but he can't overcome all the other problems in this movie. One of my favorite actors, Michael Peña, who plays expendable boyfriend Tom Lopez in this film, is really misused. Peña was really funny in “Ant Man,” but he has almost no opportunities to be funny in this film, a film that could definitely use more humor.

I think if this movie had not tried to be so much about drama, heroism, redemption and sacrifice and more about comedy, it would have been more enjoyable. It has a very silly premise. That makes it perfect for comedy, but a poor fit for drama. This film rates a D+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]