The ultimate disastrous disaster movie: yes, Moonfall

moonedMoonfall, 2022, 130 mins, Amazon Prime

Moonfall is unrelentingly stupid, probably the most stupid film I have ever seen. I used to think Michael Bay’s Armageddon was off its rocker, but that film seems pretty excellent in retrospect. Isn’t it rather sad when new films make what we thought were the bad films of old actually seem pretty decent in comparison? Armageddon at least had actors making an effort, playing fairly interesting characters with some memorable character arcs in a script with a genuine threat, with added drama of the race against time etc. True, it was utterly bonkers and over the top as all of Bay’s films tend to be, but crikey, it was a work of substance compared to Roland Emmerich’s utterly dismal offering that never tries to make any sense whatsoever or contain any believable or remotely interesting characters.

Moonfall is absolutely  horrible, with no discernible redeeming features that I can see, other than stupidity taken to some new higher level that deserves a whole new word in the dictionary. A disaster movie in which the biggest disaster is the movie itself, full of lazy tropes such that it almost borders on parody : of course the military’s immediate solution is to try nuke the moon before it can crash into the Earth. But- nuke the moon? As if all the nukes of all the Earth could blow up the moon? Just think about that for a moment, the sheer insanity of it. Mind, by the time all the cities are ruined during the film’s proceedings, and all the satellite networks swept up by the moon’s tumble into the Earth there’s nothing worth saving, the economies of the world completely thrown back into some new Dark Ages: yeah some kind of happy ending, that.

Its rather contemptible really, modern film-making in microcosm, believing that spectacle alone is enough. The utter hubris thinking that a film can get by with just big effects etc. You don’t need well-written characters, or dramatic conflict, or pretty much any script at all- imagine; an end of the world storyline totally lacking any real drama, its mind-boggling how low this film sets the bar, and everyone involved shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a film production ever again (but of course they will, its just business as usual).

So the moon is apparently some kind of megastructure built by aliens but broken somehow (actually it has been sabotaged by a seperate alien threat but that’s another level of silliness threatening an alien invasion sequel) and the moon is now falling to Earth, and only America and NASA can save us. Which has become just another level of stupid since those Armageddon days, bearing in mind that currently NASA can’t even get a guy into orbit without out-sourcing it to Elon Musk’s bunch. But hey, isn’t there an old, flight-ready (sorry, what?) Shuttle on display in a museum?  If one can even accept all that nonsense, we are asked to accept that a) NASA knew all along the moon was an alien construct and covered it up, b) they developed an EMP bomb to thwart any alien menace but it got cancelled by -wouldn’t you know it-  short-sighted budget cuts and c) nobody, not all the amateur astronomers or foreign space agencies etc noticed an eruption of space aliens on the lunar surface when a shuttle mission back in 2012 suffered a critical disaster depicted during the films opening rip of Gravity. You know a film’s bad when within the first few minutes I’m shaking my head at being asked to reduce my intelligence to that of an infant-school Spaceflight pop-up picture book.

So bad that it isn’t even fun as a curio, Moonfall is the ultimate disaster movie in all the worst possible ways. Thank goodness I watched it on Prime and never got fooled into watching it at the cinema or buying it on Blu-ray or 4K UHD.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

kings2I quite enjoyed Kingsman: The Secret Service, a confident, zany twist on the James Bond spy genre based on a popular comic/graphic novel from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. It enjoyed considerable success and a sequel was quickly greenlit, which I’m a little late finally getting to (I think they are currently filming a prequel).

In the tradition of sequels, this one is bigger, louder and zanier, and while on those terms its enjoyable enough it simply isn’t better– indeed, it’s quite inferior to the original film. Something is missing. I suspect it’s just too bigger, louder, zanier, going far over the line into the ludicrous – sort of dafter, sillier, madder. I’m pretty sure it has its fans and in some ways those fans that loved the first are just as likely to love the second for exactly the same reasons that I found it lacking.

But any film that can waste Jeff Bridges has a bad mark against it in my book. It could be anyone playing his part in this and that’s a crying shame, and it’s somewhat curious to see Halle Berry in a largely wasted role too – with talent like this involved, the film really should have been better. Which is to say nothing of the waste of Julianne Moore as the villainous drug dealer Poppy Adams, a daft pantomime performance that Moore likely thought was fun but leaves the film lacking the balance and drama of what I would consider a proper villain/bad guy. She’s crazy in the grand tradition of many of Bonds’ daftest megalomaniacs but she’s surprisingly bereft of any threat. Sure, she promises the death of millions of people but these are reduced to blatantly animated CGI characters (there’s actually far too much CGI in this, distancing us from any real dramatic tension either in the OTT fights or the grand establishing shots that look false and cartoony- only accentuating the strange distance I felt from the action). Indeed, it slipped uncomfortably close to the kitsch camp of the Adam West Batman show of the 1960s, and that may have been intentional, but it didn’t help the film at all in my view. Afterall, when a bullet to the brain doesn’t mean death, how seriously can you take anything that happens, or much less even care? I half-expected to see Mark Strong limping around in a post-credits sequence…

 

John Wick Ch.3: Parabellum (2019)

wick3This third entry in the John Wick franchise knows what it is doing from the start- pleasing John Wick fans and lovers of action movies. In that sense, the film is some kind of relentless machine, delivering elaborate fights, bloody headshots and pretty breathtaking stunts in spades, right from the opening. When I exited the cinema I wondered how long it’s going to be until somebody does a bodycount and reveals just how many dead bodies Wick and his freinds leave in their wake (I’m guessing something like two hundred, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were actually higher).

There is something almost cathartic in that cartoon violence, a ballet of death that is almost glorious- this series of films remains an action-movie fan’s wet dream, stripping down all plot and characterisation to something like a videogame level. I remember there was a game several years ago, I forget the name, but it put the player in several first-person levels/scenarios of killing and rewarded the player by scoring for headshots/stringing deaths together etc – this is that videogame as a movie.  The problem is, it gets a little wearing at times, the endless action, the relentless death and destruction lacking any depth or perspective that, say, a proper script with proper characters would have. I may be missing something, but towards the end of the film a group of bad guys in a busy concourse of the train station are suddenly wiped out through some surprise intervention (that makes little sense really when I think about it, except that the big bad guy doesn’t want the other bad guys spoiling his fun- that’s about as complex as this stuff gets) and none of the public commuters react – I even looked for the bodies in the background as the camera started to move away and I couldn’t see any. Did I blink and miss the corpses getting ‘cleaned up’? Shouldn’t hundreds of panicked commuters have been fleeing the scene?

Should I really be enjoying this silly movie so much?

Its hard to believe that it was back in 2014 that the first John Wick came out of nowhere like a breath of fresh air. Stripping the usual action movie tropes to the barest minimum, its retired assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was a mystery, barely a character outline- described as ‘Baba Yaga’ , a shadowy legend whispered about by fearing criminals, he was suddenly unleashed like a bloody force of nature when the grieving mans car was stolen and his dog killed. It was simple, and the bad guys deserved everything they got (never mess with a mans car or his dog). As action films go, the brevity of the plot and characterisation makes the film pretty much perfect.

John Wick 2 delved deeper into the mysterious mythology only hinted at in the original, and Parabellum (its funny how sophisticated/complex a title it is for a film so simple) opens things much further, actually breaking out of the city and into the outside world, as far as the deserts of Africa (in a sequence which is, ironically, the weakest of the movie, which may be telling).  Each John Wick film has added more characters in the supporting cast, more back-story, ever more elaborate myth-building. At this point with the third film, we’re pretty much at the level of the first Matrix film, the defined world having its own weird logic – assassins everywhere, a payment system of unique gold coins/tokens, administrative clerks, adjudicators, sacred codes of conduct, John Wick even practically holding status of ‘the One,’ the status of unkillable, with all the other assassins trying to prove themselves by doing the impossible. Oh, and if the moral of the first film was ‘never mess with a man and his dog’, this one offers the adage ‘never mess with a woman and her dogs’ – Halle Berry and her deadly dogs being one of the highpoints of the film (although I maintain that this section of the film away from the city is its weakest section) and it’s pretty damn certain she’ll be joining Wick in Chapter Four’s carnage.

At this point it’s pretty clear that there is a danger these films will collapse in on themselves by adding too many layers to its mythology, becoming too complex to support the inherent daftness and joy of its fairly chaotic cartoon violence. Fans always want more, and will gleefully greet John Wick 4 or even John Wick 5 (probably as inevitable as Thanos, at this point). I have to wonder though when the inevitable happens and all that violence, and Wick’s own increasingly hilarious invincibility,  just becomes wearisome. I’d much prefer the Wick films to go out on a high and not become too diluted by too many sequels or its stunts etc just get too insane in the pursuit of being better than before.

Parabellum is still a pretty damn cool action movie and cements the reputation of the series as whole, although it’s clear that there are worrying indications of the point of diminishing returns rearing its head before long. Roll on Chapter Four anyway.