- The Washington Times - Friday, April 29, 2022

Director Roland Emmerich delivered a bloated non-blockbuster earlier this year in the form of yet another epic, sci-fi fueled disaster film now looking for a home theater audience in the 4K disc format.

Within the harrowing story of Moonfall (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 130 minutes, $42.99), the famed planetoid is out of orbit and heading for a fatal encounter with Earth. Oh yeah, and it may even be a hollow megastructure and a space station built by extraterrestrials. However, I digress.

It’s up to a disgraced astronaut, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson); an Area 51 conspiracy theorist, K.C. Houseman (John Bradley); and former space partner of Harper turned NASA deputy director, Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), to stop the moon’s descent before the extinction event wipes out humanity.

Delivering a twist on the ole’ “alien technology used to influence human civilization” theory, co-writer Emmerich concocts a far-reaching plot plucking from films such as “The Terminator,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and his own “Independence Day.”

However, let’s get serious. Audiences are looking for the “Master of Disaster” to deliver, and he certainly does as the moon gets closer to Earth, causing city and coastal destruction from rampaging tides and gravity and chunks of it reigning down on those helpless Earthlings.

The action, which often gets bogged down by a backstory of Harper and Fowler’s dysfunctional families, delivers only a rousing car chase in a blizzard but not much else.

Additionally, laughable dialogue such as “these people will not have a planet unless we figure something out,” or “oh god, if this doesn’t work, we’re dead,” or “I love you more than all the stars in the sky” does not help.

Break out the popcorn for a “Moonfall” munch fest but also have a pillow handy while exploring what happens when a self-aware singularity constructed of nanotechnology particles has a problem with humanoids.

4K in action: The ultra-high definition upgrade takes its source from the 4K master and delivers every time the bombastic special effects come into play.

Pause to appreciate a gravity wave sucking water in the air and engulfing a space shuttle attempting liftoff, pieces of the moon breaking apart to hit a mountainside, or a thick tentacle of nanoparticles undulating and reshaping as it attacks various planetoids.

Additionally, all of the outer space scenes with the shuttle as well as astronauts on multiple spacewalks are delivered super crisp, never dark and well-toned, highlighted with a craft docking with a space station.

In fact, most all of the action scenes are reference-quality gorgeous but never quite make up for the stale plot.

Best extras: Amazingly, this box office dud gets an optional commentary track and a chunk of bonus content almost as long as the movie.

Of course, start with the sporadic audio track starring Mr. Emmerich and co-writer and co-composer Harald Kloser as they boringly telegraph what is happening on the screen.

The discussion only gets interesting when they touch on topics such as securing the rights to using Toto’s song “Africa,” shooting actors in weightless situations and using an astronaut on the set as a scientific adviser.

Next, viewers get an almost hourlong look at the production broken into three segments that cover everything from the film’s concept loosely based on the book “Who Built the Moon”; the fear of the rise of artificial intelligence; production design (including building 130 sets); practical effects; visual effects; water stunts; recreating the interior of the Endeavor shuttle; creating the illusion of weightlessness; and presenting the nanotech anomaly and the inside of the moon.

Also, and kind of too much, the cast and crew explain character motivations; the plot in detail; and consistently gush about how much human emotion is stuffed in the film and its grand spectacle.

Most intriguing is a nearly 30-minute-long educational look at the non-hollow moon and humans’ fascination with landing on it as explained by multiple scientists, professors, astronauts and a NASA historian, all supplemented with some incredible imagery of its surface and its place in the cosmos.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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