It was in January 2011 that astronaut Brian Harper became a victim of the conspiracy of silence, in orbit as part of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia when a catastrophic incident occurred resulting in the death of a colleague, Harper’s account of a particulate swarm engulfing the vessel dismissed by the board of enquiry who threw him out of NASA, only escaping charges for negligence because of the heroic act of landing the shuttle unpowered.

Ten years later another incident occurs over the Mare Crisium, the area of the Moon Harper identified as the origin of the phenomenon, a vessel and its entire crew lost as their drone explored a deep excavation within the crater; coinciding with the disaster the orbit of the Moon begins to shift, spiralling inwards towards Earth with the final breakup and impact estimated in three weeks, preceded by earthquakes, tsunami and the stripping of the atmosphere even as fiery debris rains down from the sky.

The dubious king of the big-budget science fiction disaster known for enormous bangs but very little brains, through Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, Roland Emmerich’s latest explosive extravaganza is no less than the decimation of the surface of the Earth and the extinction of all life mediated by Moonfall, a film once again populated by irresponsible, argumentative adults, a military eager to launch nuclear missiles and with scientists portrayed as socially inept crackpots.

Space Station 76’s Patrick Wilson is Brian Harper, disgraced, divorced and in debt yet the only man who can fly a space shuttle on manual; at his side is Extant’s Halle Berry as Jocinda Fowler, unexpectedly in charge when her superior excuses himself and hands her the keys to the secret NASA vault of secrets dating back to Apollo 11 in 1969, while Game of Thrones’ John Bradley is Doctor K C Houseman, exposition guy, comedy sidekick and cat-daddy to Fuzz Aldrin rolled into one.

The supporting characters back on Earth including Harper’s delinquent son and Fowler’s young son and au pair superfluous as they face gun-toting carjackers and learn the true meaning of family, above the clouds Moonfall moves beyond the realm of disaster movies such as When Worlds Collide or Melancholia into something more cosmic as the trio attempts to reach the Moon which Houseman theorises is an ancient alien megastructure whose controls are malfunctioning.

Carrying the emotional heft of a wooden spoon despite valiant attempts at genuine facial expressions, Moonfall is not as involving or compelling as Deep Impact but manages to be more coherent and concise than Prometheus, and away from the increasingly ridiculous antics on the disintegrating surface it is a far less awful film than has come to be expected of Emmerich as it moves towards its final act, the interior of the Moon a mechanism of power and complexity far beyond human capacity to craft or comprehend, its origin an unexpected science fiction epic of which only a glimpse is revealed.

Moonfall is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX



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