Every so often, a major studio releases a picture of such shockingly low quality that everyone, from critics to mass audiences to industry professionals alike, reels in surprise. The most recent example of this was Cats (2019), known to many as the greatest horror film of the 21st century. Moonfall is the newest movie to fit this bill. It is a film of such grandiose, magnificent stupidity that no movie-loving person should miss it.
For indeed, Moonfall is stupid. It is deafeningly and mind-bogglingly stupid. It is so unbelievably stupid that it crosses the stupidity threshold, gains sentience, dismantles your brain’s logic centres, and convinces you that you have just witnessed a work of genius. Writer-director Roland Emmerich, disaster movie-auteur, has siphoned out the most proudly idiotic moments of his earlier films, swirled them into an apocalyptic mélange and added $140 million in special effects. The result is a film so incomprehensibly dumb that words like “quality” and “intelligence” lose all meaning.
The plot of Moonfall does exactly what its title suggests. The moon does, in fact, fall, but not before a mysterious black substance attacks a Space Shuttle mission at which astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) are present. Ten years after this failed mission, Brian meets K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), a neckbeard conspiracy theorist who discovers that the moon will soon collide with Earth. After some global flooding, a few skyscraper-sized “gravity waves,” and several other world-ending plot contrivances, the three protagonists take off on a world-saving mission to the moon.
The moon scraping across Earth’s surface is the main attraction, but there are so many other pleasures on display: The Purge-style gang raiders, imminent nuclear destruction, and a sentient AI program are but a few of the increasingly ludicrous plot strands that fill out this ever-more rewarding opus of idiocy. And this is to say nothing of a low-gravity car-chase, the unapologetic rip-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or a cameo by Donald Sutherland as a NASA scientist who helped cover up the moon landing. Seriously.
Moonfall contains a stupidity so potent that cannot be understated. Its contrivances, clichés, and constant visual stimuli are of such a high order that they cannot be judged by normal standards. One could not give it a one-star, or even a zero-star rating. Indeed, its value does not lie at zero—it lies in the negatives. It presents a black hole of tropes and clichés so profoundly unoriginal that they reverse their entropy, making the most worn-out phrase sound like inspired poetry. This is the magic of Moonfall: it is so impressively bad, so bombastically moronic, that it should be considered a major achievement.
Image couresty of ESO/M. KORNMESSER via Spektrum