Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
Release Date: February 4th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Roland Emmerich Actors: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Michael Pena, Carolina Bartczak, Eme Ikwuakor, Stephen Bogaert, Maxim Roy, Donald Sutherland, Wenwen Yu
uring routine satellite maintenance, an unidentified space anomaly attacks a crew of three NASA astronauts, leaving the first dead, the second unconscious, and the third forced to pilot their crippled spaceship back home. Ten years pass, but astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) can’t shake the guilt of feeling responsible for his colleague’s death. It doesn’t help that the rest of the world sees the tragedy as a result of his negligence, and co-pilot Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) was unable to confirm his account of a mysterious force instigating the episode. But when fringe conspiracy theorist Dr. KC Houseman (John Bradley) uncovers evidence that the moon’s orbit has changed, and NASA scientists confirm the monumental discovery, the disgraced Harper is recruited by Fowler for a last-ditch mission back into space to confront the scourge and stop the extirpation of all life on Earth.
The opening shots of low orbit are unusually impressive, reminding of some of the grander sequences from “Gravity” and “Ad Astra.” Within seconds, however, writer/director Roland Emmerich’s signature disaster-movie vibe takes hold, transitioning away from the realism of satellite upkeep to total sci-fi wildness. And it’s not the standard, apocalyptic sort of sci-fi of late (such as in projects like “Greenland” or even “Don’t Look Up”) – it’s alien-entity science-fiction. Once the extraterrestrial components are introduced, the script doesn’t have to abide by any real science, opting to fully embrace the foolishness of annihilative technological lifeforms. “Your rules don’t apply now.”
The initial premise of the moon shifting into a collision course with Earth is manageable, but the concepts rapidly get out of hand. But long before that, it’s apparent that there won’t be any characters involved worthy of following; everyone here is a bland counterpart to personas from “Independence Day,” ranging from various experts and scientists to wackos, politicians, military members, and a plethora of children from broken homes. There’s even a babysitter – who has far too many lines of dialogue and needlessly heroic intentions (this character in particular is added for marketability, right alongside painfully obvious advertising for Kaspersky, Lexus, and SpaceX). Plenty of familial issues need sorting, though the various youngsters are terribly unsympathetic, primarily serving just to stall before the action gets going. The story clearly believes that all of these extraneous human roles will stir something within audiences, but they’re instead fodder for the looming catastrophic destruction, making zero difference when they become tragedies, and perhaps causing frustration when they miraculously survive cataclysmic events.
“Everything we thought we knew about the nature of the universe has just gone out the window.” Eventually, the premise shifts to heady themes seen in newer “Star Trek” series – realms so complex and sizable and ungraspable that the entirety of the movie should have taken place solely on (or in) the moon. Earth’s devastation appears trivial amid the landscape of planet-propagating, interstellar civilizations. And those colossal ideas make the minutes spent with stale supporting characters feel even more pointless, especially when time spans move hurriedly through news updates, montages, and scene transitions, demonstrating how society quickly crumbles, expectedly descending into chaos when existential threats arise.
At least there are convincing props and decent CG mayhem, even as the actors spout horrendous dialogue and devise last-minute plans that conveniently utilize the main cast (and virtually no one else) among the stars. Upsettingly frequently, everyone possesses uncommon knowledge about operating any type of machinery or computer system, or knowing when and where useful items are needed and located, or figuring out enormously complicated calculations without any formal training. It all steadily grows more nonsensical as the climax approaches; the conceptualizations here are just too big for a single movie. Plus, it’s evident that Emmerich has completely run out of ideas on how to obliterate the planet, resorting to ever stranger, less satisfying options, which feel brainless as opposed to awe-inspiring.
– Mike Massie