Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall overused one of the biggest, cheesiest tropes in the genre, leaving fans wondering where the originality went.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Moonfall, now in theaters.
One of the biggest setbacks in Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall is that, spectacle aside, it had a pretty absurd plot. Sure, it was heartwarming to see families once more trying to brave the apocalypse, but this disaster movie just strung together clichés and regurgitated basic arcs from most of Emmerich’s movies. In the process, it overused one of the biggest, cheesiest tropes in the genre, leaving fans wondering where the originality and inventiveness went as the moon almost crashed into the Earth.
The trope of self-sacrifice was heavily overdone, making it feel forced for the sake of shock value rather than to create an emotive story about loved ones being torn apart. It’s something famously exemplified in Armageddon when Bruce Willis’ Harry suddenly swapped places with Ben Affleck’s A.J. in the spaceship airlock, allowing the older man to blow up the asteroid so A.J. could return to marry Harry’s daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler). It’s a staple of many other disaster movies, with Emmerich himself repurposing it in Independence Day when Randy Quaid’s Russell Casse rammed his fighter jet into an alien warship to save America and his kids.
In Moonfall, a nanotech swarm was shifting the moon out of its orbit so it could collide with and destroy Earth. While NASA astronauts Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jo (Halle Berry) took a shuttle, along with K.C. (John Bradley), to destroy the swarm and stop the moon from falling, their families became one tight unit, hoping to make it through near Colorado.
Tom (Michael Peña) tried to escort Harper’s family to safety in a Colorado mine after getting together with Harper’s ex-wife, Brenda, forming a family of his own. While he was initially mean to Harper, he respected what the astronaut was doing in space; unfortunately, as they hiked to the mine for shelter, Tom had no mask or oxygen, as he’d given his to the kids. He ended up passing out and dying, urging them all forward with his last breath. That could have been given a pass, but it felt like sacrifice became a running gag later on when Jo’s ex, Doug, a military general, turned his gun on the U.S. government at their bunker. He held them hostage because he didn’t want them to nuke the moon and kill Jo and Harper. Doug believed in his ex-wife, wanting to give her the best shot at saving the planet.
Sadly, as the moon crumbled, rubble eventually squashed them, which made it feel like these couples were scripted as divorced just so the heroes could be impacted by the deaths but not overly affected. Emmerich also played up the Armageddon switcheroo because when Harper was about to stay behind and blow the swarm up in the rover in the moon’s core, K.C. rushed in and did it instead.
It was highly reminiscent of when Harry locked A.J. in, with Emmerich even remixing the speech about going back to Earth and carving out a better life. It made Moonfall feel like a tacky, pale imitation, rinsing and repeating but still leaving the main astronauts with enough plot armor that they could mourn outsiders while still having their own happy endings.
See how Roland Emmerich overused the trope of sacrifice in Moonfall, now in theaters.
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