Emmerich's special-effects spectacular is total space junk, but, script aside, this rocket ride is a blast. The far-out plot is ridiculous and the dialogue laughable at times, but Emmerich is chuckling right along with us: Moonfall knows exactly what it is and embraces it. Conspiracy theorists get their moment in the sun with a plot that has its hooks in concepts that light up certain internet chat rooms. And this "unexpected redemption" theme extends to another unlikely archetype: the "deadbeat dad." Astronaut Brian Harper is wrongly terminated by NASA; 10 years later, his life has unraveled, and he's broke, divorced, irresponsible, and the kind of dad who doesn't show up for weekends or special events. But when the end of the world is nigh, Brian steps up, becoming a hero and finally engaging as a father. It may not feel like a natural choice to build sympathy for his character, but the storytelling choice ends up like a warm hug for kids with estranged parents, since we're able to see how much Brian loves and values his child, even if Brian was a frequent disappointment.
Emmerich doesn't let audiences down with the special effects they've come to expect from him. In his previous films, he's destroyed most of the world in epic fashion, so it's no surprise he's now turned to space. The demolition builds, easing us into the moment where the title pays off with full intensity. While the actors play the world-ending emergency seriously, audiences may break the tension with laughter in unexpected places. Particularly funny is how the moon transforms into a villain, looming larger and larger on the screen, feeling more like Darth Vader than the smiling companion that lights up the dark. You're likely to think of Star Wars more than once, and while Moonfall is more frightening and less satisfying than that classic, as the runtime ticks past the two-hour mark, it too feels like a story that will never end.