Film Reviews

Moonfall (2022)

It’s not often that movies are actually filmed in and take place primarily underwater but if done right, it feels like the perfect angle for a horror movie.

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s The Deep House gives you just enough time to take in one big breath before diving head first into the cold waters of a French man made lake for the rest of its runtime.

In this particular lake is an abandoned mansion that conjures a young haunted travel vlogging couple, Ben and Tina played by James Jagger and Camille Rowe, to monetarily explore its eerie presence.

Expecting to find only the large structure left standing on the lake floor, what they find inside is much more than expected and with absolutely no means of escape. This mansion is enormous and that’s clear when the couple descend upon it and swim around its exteriors but once inside the completely boarded up place, the many creepy rooms still mostly preserved in completely surrounding watery darkness makes you feel uncomfortably claustrophobic.

The dark and sinister history of the Montegnac Mansion is awakened by the arrival of its latest guests and so this aquatic exploration quickly turns into a horrifying race against time and the terrors that still lurk within this sunken purgatory. Sanity levels deplete even faster than the supplied oxygen tanks do and it fully illustrates wave after wave of dreadful and hopeless panic.

Bustillo and Maury have collaborated on a handful of horror movies since the early 2000s. From their first and still best work on the 2007 film Inside, each movie sadly seemed to get worse from there, especially their 2017 Leatherface film. This movie is easily their 2nd best movie so far. The Deep House is a rather straightforward horror movie but with technical design that is just exceptionally incomparable to any other horror movie out there.

Check it out on Hulu or Paramount Plus.

For what’s it’s worth:

***Spoilers Ahead***

Roland Emmerich’s latest blockbuster Moonfall is an astronomical science fiction disaster on so many levels.

First and foremost, it’s one giant mess but you should have already come to expect that from the director given his previous work.

The film opens with a neat space vista that oddly enough reminded me of the infamous earth shot from 2001: A Space Odyssey, only visually speaking and nothing more. Instead of capitalizing on a fairly neat opening shot, what follows is a flimsy setup that rushes in then drags on for far too long.

A NASA crew is conducting some repairs outside the space station when some sort of metallic swarm/snake attacks and as quickly as it came, it slithers its way to the moon where it digs itself into the object before we jump 10 years into the future and are formally introduced to the characters. From the attacked crew is now disgraced Astronaut Brian Harper—played by Patrick Wilson—and distinguished astronaut Jocinda Fowler—played by Halle Berry. Then there’s John Bradley’s KC, a conspiracy loner who provides the film’s comedic relief. Together they make up humanity’s savior trio.

They’re awfully written and terribly spoken yet somehow they still end up being likable characters. This seems to be a result of true star power that actors like Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry possess and even John Bradley who shows great promise with his humor, even if it’s at times far too cheesy. I always enjoy seeing these stars on the big screen.

The three discover that something has thrown the moon out of its Earthly orbit and it causes natural disasters to occur. Flooding, earthquakes and mass hysteria and strangely it all only really takes place in the US. The films is deeply American rooted now looking back at it all in retrospect. The stretches of natural catastrophe are fairly bland compared to previous Emmerich disaster epics but work well enough given how real and how terrifying a concept like this actually seems. Thanks to a whole lot of scientific concepts that the film clearly BS’s its way through, the Moon continues to fall towards earth with alarming acceleration and the closer it gets the crazier the natural disasters get.

It has your necessary B plot to accompany the main attraction and its fine. Brian’s disgruntled son Sonny—played by Charlie Plummer—is tasked with helping his and Jo’s family to safety in Aspen Colorado where the elite have their bunker. I dig the snowy Rocky Mountain landscape this whole plot takes place in. Their escape to safety is a thrilling one that fills in the evils of human desperation but it’s all incredibly far-fetched. The natural disasters that plague those on Earth are escalating by the hour and provide some awesome disaster visuals. Falling pieces of the moon smash into the mountains and snowstorms sweep through with each pass of the moon. 

But the natural disasters caused by the moon and this mysterious extraterrestrial monster that has seemingly buried itself into the moon only scratch the surface of the science fiction here. Things really picks up in the second half with an insane 3rd act that went in some directions I haven’t seen from Emmerich in a long time if ever. He more than ever urges the viewer to suspend their disbelief because it gets bonkers.

While Earth is getting completely annihilated by the moon’s gravitational effects, in an incredibly unbelievable fashion, our trio of hero’s blast off to the moon in a retired space shuttle to save the day and blow up this monstrous threat. They descend into our moon and discover something otherworldly.

The Moon is the true “star” of the film. We’ve always known the Moon to be a natural satellite for Earth but in Moonfall it’s instead an actual Megastructure built around a white dwarf star by an ancient yet lightyears more advanced human civilization—our “Forefathers”. 

I really dig the whole ancient human backstory despite how entirely outlandish it is. There were countless moments that I found myself wincing in disbelief, shaking my head at cheesy humor and throwing my hands up at the most confusing events. This stretch of the film made me do all of the above yet it’s a surprisingly incredible display of science fiction and not at all what I was expecting in its big reveal. I couldn’t help but feel amazed.

The swarm-snake creature is actually an evil out of control manifestation of AI created by the ancient yet superior ancestors of humanity on their home planet. Its sound design actually rules, its probably my second favorite thing about the film. The Moon structure acted as some sort of Noah’s Ark spaceship to flee the deadly threat and find a new home billions of light years away, and our moon happened to be the sole survivor and it happened to find Earth. Within this megastructure, the ancient civilization has found a way to keep the structure operating with even more unexplainable science fiction, and their own AI consciousness that possibly continues to power and protect the moon. The AI monster has finally tracked down this last remaining vessel to harness and devour its powerful energy, causing it’s orbit to weaken. So with this new found information, the trio is able to make necessary sacrifices and blow the technological evil to tiny metallic bits and save earth, or at least who is left on earth because I can’t even imagine how many people died while our space saviors were up in space. The moon’s orbit accelerated to the point of days probably lasting an hour causing wave after wave of disaster and it even ended up making contact with our planet before it returned to a safely distanced orbit where its once rocky moon surface has shed off exposing its true technological exterior.

Despite how awesome I find the final act to be, It just never feels like the movie is not adequately equipped to harness its ambitious twist and that’s a shame because I found it to be my favorite part of this disastrous science fiction mess.

There does appear to be remnants of a message hidden beneath the science fiction nonsense and within the awful exposition that riddles the entire film. It’s clearly a layered warning that the state of our modern civilization somewhat mirrors that of our fictional ancestors and we may be heading in the same endangered direction. Themes of looming natural disasters, futuristic AI tech and it’s advancements yet potential harmfulness, deceptive politics, and notions of what a world united could look like become apparent by the end and it feels like humanity was given a second chance to change course for the better.

When thinking about all of this, it oddly feels like Moonfall may also be Roland Emmerich self reflecting on his own career. His successful past, an unsure present in an ever changing industry and what his future as a filmmaker may hold. It’s something I would love to explore in another piece of deeper writing later on.

Moonfall truly feels like Roland Emmerichs greatest (and worst) hits. I’m not even kidding when I say you could take every tagline from his previous films and it would end up creating this undeniably disastrous yet still somehow entertaining sci-fi blockbuster.

If you come into the movie aware of Roland Emmerich’s work and with light expectations you may find yourself having a surprisingly fun time!

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