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Moonfall (4K Ultra HD)
I love a good disaster movie. Deep Impact. Twister. Dante's Peak. I try to find the biggest screen, loudest sound bar and coldest beer in sight before sitting back and letting the action roll. Roland Emmerich has become a purveyor of disaster epics, starting with Independence Day, moving to The Day After Tomorrow, and destroying much of earth in 2012. His movies do not always land perfectly but, with the exception of 10,000 BC, I find them to be entertaining spectacles with excellent effects and talented casts having fun with the material. I was excited when I saw the trailer for his laster disaster film, Moonfall, which sees the moon fall out of its orbit and begin wreaking untold havoc upon the fair citizens of earth. Independently produced on a budget north of $140 million, Moonfall, well, falls harder than any previous Emmerich film. Despite the considerable talents of Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson and some nifty effects, this a shockingly dull and inept film.
A decade ago, astronauts Brian Harper (Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler are on a space shuttle in orbit repairing a satellite. An unexplained black swarm appears, killing a junior astronaut, and Harper and Fowler barely make it back home, where NASA dismisses their story and cites human error instead. In the present, conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) espouses that the moon is an artificial megastructure hiding something inside. He discovers that the moon has fallen out of orbit and is coming closer to earth. NASA and Harper initially disbelieve Houseman, but Fowler, now NASA's deputy director, soon realizes his findings are accurate. As the moon's orbit further deteriorates, natural disasters begin happening across the planet. Fowler turns to Harper and Houseman to mount a last-ditch shuttle mission to try to save the planet.
Beware, there will be spoilers ahead!. The first and biggest problem I have with Moonfall is the story. The alien megastructure plot sucks, period. This movie would have been so much better if it had stayed a pure natural-disaster thriller. The moon falling out of orbit toward earth is a pretty cool concept, but adding the science-fiction elements so haphazardly really undercuts any excitement I got from the movie. There is absolutely zero tension or any real concern that the world will actually end. If Emmerich had focused more on the chaos on earth - tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. - the danger might have felt more real. Instead, we zip around NASA and into space with Wilson, Berry and Bradley, who give lively performances in an absolutely dry scenario.
As expected, Emmerich introduces tons of supporting characters no one cares about, and they end up sacrificing themselves or disappearing without much impact. The underused supporting cast includes Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer and Donald Sutherland. There are some nifty effects during a few sequences, and shots of a giant moon on the horizon are pretty striking. There is just not enough action on earth during these orbit and tide-disruption disasters. Pair that with a main cast completing uninteresting tasks and you get a two-hour narrative that feels significantly longer, and not in a good way. Moonfall bombed at the box office, thanks in part to COVID but also because it is bad. I hope Emmerich returns to the genre again and finds greater success than with this big-budget dud.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Lionsgate releases Moonfall on 4K UHD with a 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a native 4K source. This digitally shot film looks excellent here, and this 4K image provides the three-dimensional "pop" and level of detail home-theater aficionados crave. The HDR pass offers gorgeously saturated colors, particularly in shots from space looking back at earth. Fine-object detail and texture are exceptional, and wide shots are deep and absolutely clear. The film looks great in motion, and there is absolutely no blur or smearing. Black levels are good, shadow detail is abundant, highlights are kept in check, and skin tones are accurate. This is an excellent transfer for a lousy movie.
I experienced the Dolby Atmos mix in the thumping 7.1 Dolby TrueHD variant, and it, like the transfer, is top-notch. Immersive is an understatement here, as this mix absolutely sears through the surrounds and starts off with immediate LFE rumble. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly balanced, the score is bold and given room to breathe, and the effects work is excellent. Both ambient and action effects utilize the entire sound field, and the LFE is engaged throughout. Directional effects are frequent, and effects panning is impressive. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are included, as are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K, a Blu-ray and a digital copy. The case is wrapped in a glossy slipcover. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Director/Writer Roland Emmerich and Writer/Producer/Composer Harald Kloser; Against All Odds: Making Moonfall (58:40/HD), a decent making-of documentary; Exploring the Moon: Past, Present and Future (26:29/HD), and Dr. K.C. Houseman Speaks the Truth! (7:49/HD), in which the character expresses his conspiracy theories.
Disaster auteur Roland Emmerich can typically be counted on to provide entertaining spectacle, even when his narratives and character development falter, but his latest, Moonfall is a dud. A dull narrative and questionable story decisions take away from any impact this disaster epic makes. At least Lionsgate's 4K Ultra HD release is excellent. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.