This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema (if I inevitably decide to do my MSc Dissertation on this topic).
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
Here we go again. It is 2022, and we get a new Michael Bay movie AND a new Roland Emmerich movie. And not just any kind of Emmerich movie, but a disaster movie. The genre in which Emmerich attempts to outdo all that came before.
After ending the world (again) in 2012, how else can he go bigger? Well in INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE he revisited the alien invaders that skyrocketed his name into the Blockbuster pantheon. And it was unmemorable (I honestly cannot remember anything about the sequel..), and left a sour taste in the mouth.
MOONFALL on the otherhand, well… it has the Moon falling into the Earth. Yeah…
I feel that is only right to cover this movie for the Michael Bay series I do on here, as like I said in my review of MIDWAY, both filmmakers seemed to be interlinked. Both have an aesthetic that is not possible to be replicated by others (although some have failed in trying). And what with 2022 bringing us the wonders of cinema releases of the new Michael Bay AND Roland Emmerich movie, it seems only fair to have a discussion about both (Don’t worry, when AMBULANCE tickets go on sale, I am first in line).
So, MOONFALL… Here is a synopsis from IMDb:
In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurdling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman believe her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find that they just might have prepared for the wrong mission.
It is no surprise to hear that that this is a very silly movie. Pretty much like most of his movies, except UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.
However, Blockbuster filmmaking has become very ‘cut and paste’. This isn’t a criticism on the formula that is defining Blockbuster films now, there are reasons why this is the case, the primary one being that these movies make a shit-tonne of money. What Emmerich does is bring the sincerity of 80s Spielberg, the explosiveness of 90s Bruckheimer, and the stupidity and silliness of, well, himself. Emmerich combines it into something that noone else would even attempt. Even Paul WS Anderson is a cynic in the modern movie world, but Emmerich refuses to settle into the mould.
Once upon a time in 1996 with the release of INDEPENDENCE DAY, he was the definition of Blockbuster. But as the world got more cynical, more jaded, Emmerich couldn’t keep doing the sincerity he commits to and have the audience blindly follow him. With the exception of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (which is actually TODAY) it just came across like you couldn’t end the world like you used to.
Spielberg with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS in 2005 made the ‘post 9/11’ disaster movie, and then moved away from that genre of movie. Michael Bay increasingly got lost in the machinations of franchise filmmaking, and has returned to ‘smaller’ pictures (okay, when I saw smaller, I mean low-stakes not world-ending. Small doesnt exist for Bay.)
I think Emmerich is back to what he does best. Especially after the misstep of INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (again, I think it was a misstep.. I can’t remember anything of that movie). The construction of the action set-pieces are clear and concise, and I can’t sit here and say that I wasn’t entertained. Can’t think of a movie which outwordly points out the hope of seeing a graffiti-covered Endeavour being wheeled through a burning LA, as though NASA is throwing one last throw of the dice in the hope that this will work.
Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry are perfectly game for the movie, but Brian Harper really throws his all into the film. The character almost plays like the actor, in that he can’t quite believe he is here doing these amazing things on screen. Shoutout to the cameo of Donald Sutherland in a very dark (literally and metaphorically) secretive warehouse sequence.
There is a ‘regular schmo’ story, which Emmerich seems committed to having in all these films, but here it feels like an afterthought. Almost as though he knows what is more interesting, and that’s lines like “Gravity waves”. The VFX is a huge step-up from MIDWAY, making even the B-Story pallatable.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (again, I think it was a misstep.. I can’t remember anything of that movie) was the worst of his impulses. What MOONFALL does is rehabilitate him, at least for me anyway. The action here is clear, there is no jarring extremities, and I can’t accuse of the film of being boring.
Which brings me to the third act. Which I won’t spoil, as it joins the insanity of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM and MALIGNANT in the list of big-bidget movies with insane third act reveals. But the commitment to the idea is commendable, and had me laughing with glee. Which again shows that I can’t accuse the movie of not being entertaining.
When I spoke about MIDWAY, I wasn’t taken in by the aesthetic. Emmerich attempted to harken back to an ‘old’ style of war filmmaking, and it just didn’t work. The film felt flat, the VFX came across as cheap, and yet it could’ve been so much more. I compared it to PEARL HARBOUR, a film that whilst immensely flawed, the action is incredible.
I can’t accuse MOONFALL of being the same as MIDWAY. This is Emmerich’s best movie in years, and if he wants to do a space opera, I really hope his Chinese investors give him the money to do it. Because on the evidence of MOONFALL, I will be entertained. And to be honest, isn’t that what you want when going to the cinema?
And yes, it rains. A lot.
Next up: AMBULANCE (Released March 22nd 2022)