Disaster movies were a popular genre in the summer blockbuster movie catalog. Earthquakes, towering infernos, and capsized ships went head-to-head against sharks, Jedi’s, and archaeologists for box office supremacy.
The 1990’s ushered in a new era of computer-generated imagery that allowed the summer blockbuster, including disaster movies, to reach levels of unforeseen epic grandeur. Aliens, asteroids, and dinosaurs were now taking turns breaking box office records with volcanoes, tornadoes, and more capsized ships summer after summer.
The 90’s proved to be the peak for disaster movies as the appetite for massive levels of destruction was eventually replaced in the high profile summer release slots by a demand for mostly superheroes.
In the present day, Director Roland Emmerich attempts to elevate the disaster movie back into the general consciousness, with his latest feature, Moonfall.
In Moonfall, the moon has mysteriously been knocked out of orbit. This is causing it to inch closer to earth, creating all sorts of havoc while on its path towards the total annihilation of earth.
Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry play astronauts Brian Harper and Jocinda Fowler respectively. They must find out what exactly is causing the moon to go off kilter to redirect its course and save the planet from destruction.
It is not difficult to imagine Moonfall with its premise and stellar cast breaking box office records 25 years ago. A fun time at the theaters paired with stunning special effects for the time would have guaranteed a sure-fire success.
Unfortunately Moonfall arrives late to the 90’s party. It also fails to check most of those boxes, resulting in a poorly made, dull, slog.
Wilson drags around the screen trying to act like he cares. Berry does her best delivering continuous lines of increased dumbness. The film also follows the tradition of other Emmerich entries of cramming in too many characters with no real purpose. Only John Bradley playing idiot savant KC Houseman seems to be somewhat enthused at the chance of starring in something this ridiculous.
However, disaster movies were never big on brains. They served as pure fun during hot summer months and were also a vehicle for showcasing the latest in CGI technology.
With Independence Day, Emmerich combined CGI with practical effects to create some of the most awe-inspiring action sequences of the time. Godzilla ravaged cities like never before in his hands. The full effects of global warming were presented with disturbing clarity in The Day After Tomorrow. Each of his disaster movies played the cataclysmic events to spectacular results and emotional effect. The world’s Emmerich created no matter how ridiculous, felt real.
An over reliance of CGI and shoddy writing causes the opposite effect in Moonfall. The emotional connection never materializes, even as disaster looms. Tsunami waves destroy obviously fake cities. Moon chunks crash down on digitally rendered landscapes. Excessive characters are not developed enough for audiences to care about.
The world is noticeably fake. The destruction obviously digitally rendered. The characters are superfluous. All in all, it feels empty.
The disaster movie may make a comeback someday. Superhero fatigue is settling in, which might give the disaster genre an opportunity to inch closer to its former glory days. Unfortunately, Moonfall lacks the gravity to pull the genre back to the top.