The science-fiction film “Moonfall” is the latest work of “disaster master” Roland Emmerich, the same man behind films like “Independence Day,” “The Day after Tomorrow” and “2012”. Starring Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson as the lead characters, it tells the story of a disgraced astronaut’s journey back to redemption and acceptance, all while saving the world from destruction. Emmerich’s method of wiping out the world this time is the moon leaving its orbit and slinging towards the Earth, all based on a real-world conspiracy theory that the moon is a hollow and artificial structure. Despite having scenes of visual and graphic brilliance, everything else about it makes “Moonfall” an unconvincing and disappointing watch.
‘Moonfall’ Plot Summary
The film opens on January 12th, 2011, when three NASA astronauts, Jocinda Fowler, Brian Harper, and rookie Marcus, are in outer space repairing a satellite. The three are engaged in regular small-talk when a strange black swarm of unknown objects attacks their space shuttle. Jocinda, the one inside the shuttle, loses consciousness from the impact, and the two men face the direct attack that kills Marcus. Brian manages to get inside the safety cover and notices a strange storm on the surface of the moon, and is ultimately able to bring the shuttle back to Earth. Sometime soon, NASA dismisses the claims of Brian and fires him for negligence.
Ten years later, a man is seen breaking into the University of California campus in Irvine to access some data that suggests that the moon’s orbit is gradually shifting towards Earth. Around the same time, Jocinda, now the deputy director at NASA, called for an emergency meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss the same anomaly, in which the moon was noticed to be shifting its course. The intruder seen earlier, K.C. Houseman, who is a big-time space enthusiast and a conspiracy theorist, tries to make contact with NASA but is denied. He then tries reaching out to Brian too, but to no avail. Brian now lives a life of general defamation as most still hold him responsible for the accident in 2011.
NASA figures out that the moon will shatter onto Earth’s surface in about three weeks’ time and also drop debris whenever it gets close enough. Houseman, on the other hand, releases the information about the moon on the internet, which creates a massive buzz of panic among citizens, and NASA announces in a press conference that it is about to send another expedition to fix whatever is wrong. The rocket finds a deep hole on the floor of one of the moon’s craters, and when it tries to probe it, that mysterious swarm flies out and destroys the shuttle, killing all the astronauts inside.
Jocinda and her team watch all this with utter shock as the moon now gets closer to the Earth, causing massive floods in coastal areas. Brian gets word of the impending disaster on television and immediately tries to contact Houseman, who had earlier tried to tell him similar things. The conspiracy theorist tells Brian that it is his belief that the moon is actually an artificial structure made by aliens with a “white dwarf” (energy core) inside that is now not able to operate correctly, therefore causing the moon to shift its course.
Jocinda learns that the two minutes of live feed that were cut from transmission during the first Apollo 11 moon landing were not an accident but an intentional coverup of similar anomalies that it had discovered. She also learns that the US government had prepared an effective EMP detonator to deal with the swarm, but it had never been used. While the US defense considers launching nuclear missiles at the moon, Jocinda orders the EMP weapon to be brought out, and a retired space shuttle be brought back to service, and she calls upon Brian and Houseman for a mission to deal with whatever is wrong inside the moon.
What Do They Find Underneath The Moon’s Surface?
Just as the three astronauts (Houseman is by now established as an experienced space genius, although he is technically not a professional) launch with the EMP gun, disastrous tidal waves crash onto the space center, destroying it and killing all workers inside. With the genius of Houseman and the experience of the two astronauts, they are able to make it safely into outer space, where they notice the moon to be scarily close to the Earth’s surface.
Getting close to the moon, they manage to bait the swarm out to try and blow it up, but the plan fails as they realize that its nature is to attack any living being surrounded by electronics, i.e., them. After closely evading danger, Brian flies the shuttle inside the hole in the moon and realizes that the moon is indeed an artificial superstructure with an energy source in the middle. But the swarm, clearly a foreign object, has been taking away energy from the moon’s source, which has been forcing the moon to change its orbit. It was evident that the swarm had been breaking into the moon since the time when Brian had noticed it ten years ago, and by now, had totally taken hold of it. However, flying deeper into the moon, the astronauts discover large alien-looking spaceships, one of which pulls their spacecraft inside its interior chamber, saving them from certain death.
What Was The Origin Of Superstructures & AI Swarm?
Senseless from the impact, Brian is taken to a chamber, where a mysterious consciousness reveals to him the entire truth: billions of years ago, the forefathers of our human civilization had been living an advanced and peaceful life in a different part of the galaxy, when the artificial intelligence (which was central to this civilization) turned against humans and started methodically killing off all humans.
Humans had created many superstructures fueled by energy sources and run by AI for the purpose of finding new planets to incubate new human life, and the rogue AI started destroying these structures one after the other. But one such structure was sent away before it could be destroyed, and this became the moon, which enabled human life to re-emerge on Earth in the Milky Way galaxy. Since then, this rogue AI and its swarms have been searching for all such superstructures and, now having found the moon, want to destroy it and all human life.
The mysterious consciousness introduces itself as a computer program designed to tell Brian all of this, and also tells him to sacrifice himself for all of humanity by driving the spacecraft into the swarm with the EMP armed and then blowing it up from within.
On the space shuttle, Brian explains everything to Jocinda and Houseman and lets them know of his plan of saving the planet. However, Jocinda heavily objects to this and is not ready to let Brian sacrifice his own life.
What Is The Situation On Earth All This While?
Meanwhile, on Earth, Brian’s teenage son, Sonny, drives a military jeep, taking Jimmy, Jocinda’s young son, and his nanny, Kelly, from the NASA base in California to Jimmy’s father, Doug (also an army general), and they have to go through natural as well as human troubles. When the moon’s gravitational pull comes in the way of the Earth, it lifts up objects from the Earth’s surface while also dropping huge chunks of debris. This disaster on the planet has also wiped out any sense of society and civility, as humans fight each other for basic needs, and Sonny and his group are intercepted by one such group of rogue youths who take their car away. The three then walk to Aspen and take shelter at the house of Sonny’s mother and stepfather.
Accompanied by Brenda, Brian’s ex-wife, and her husband Tom, the children and teenagers make their way towards safety, avoiding fighting humans and the deadly pull of the moon, but they have to take shelter inside a mountainous tunnel. As the oxygen in the air reduces rapidly, Tom gives his gas mask to his youngest daughter and sacrifices his own life to keep the family safe. While the three astronauts inside the moon argue over the question of sacrificing their lives, the US government decides to launch nuclear missiles at the moon. Army General Doug manages to put a stop to the mission by taking his superior general hostage, showing faith in his ex-wife and not wanting to kill her with missile strikes.
‘Moonfall’ Ending Explained: Does The Earth And Human Civilization Finally Survive? What Does The Closing Shot Symbolize?
Realizing that he has the most to prove to himself and the world, and the least to lose on Earth, Houseman decides to sacrifice himself and save all of humanity. He enters the rover with the armed bomb and flies it into the swarm, killing it by detonating the EMP. Brian and Jocinda then safely return to Earth, where the disasters have stopped as the moon is now back to its usual self. In a final scene, the AI on the moon is shown to have kept a copy of Houseman’s consciousness, and he is now part of the moon. It then puzzlingly tells him, “We should get started,” and when he asks with what, the end credits roll.
The last cryptic scene can very well be an indication of a continued story that we might get to see in the future. Or it can well be never explored, and remain a point of an unsolved mystery that the science fiction genre has done before, be it in literature or cinema.
“Moonfall” puts a lot more emphasis on the science fiction side rather than using that world or crisis to tell a human story, as most good space science fiction films do (the likes of “Moon” or “Gravity”). Although it does seem to be itself about the retribution of Brian as an astronaut, the narrative falters to prove it. All the characters are given stories of who they leave behind on Earth—Brian’s ex-wife and their son Sonny, who had been emotionally affected at a very young age seeing his father fall from grace; Jocinda has her young son who she raises alone after her divorce from Doug, now a high-ranking defense official; Houseman has his old mother who suffers from memory loss, and his pet cat lovingly named Fuzz Aldrin.
However, none of these plot lines seem convincing and genuine, and the lackluster script and mostly average acting throughout do not help either. Instead, the focus is more on whatever is wrong with the moon and how that can be solved. The problems with the moon are based on an actual, real-world conspiracy theory that the moon is a megastructure created by some alien life force, based on another theory that the moon is hollow on the inside. It is understandable that the human mind is awed by the nearest celestial body that we see everyday (well, almost), and a horrific tale of it crashing down on us does make for an interesting idea. But whatever conspiracy theory-fueled extra Emmerich adds to it makes it even more unbelievable and unrelatable, thoughts that one should not be forced to have while watching a science fiction film.
“Moonfall” does good work with regards to the camera and graphics. Scenes look alarming and destructive as gigantic waves crash upon human architecture, or when the enormous moon is seen from outer space, almost crashing onto the Earth’s surface. But neither the plot nor the script puts up with this splendor, and the film’s world ultimately looks quite unaffected and bland with everything going around. Overall, “Moonfall”‘s grandness might make it difficult to not recommend or to stay away from, but the film will definitely end up disappointing most.
“Moonfall” is a 2022 Science Fiction film directed by Roland Emmerich.