DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
SFX|February 2022
DIRECTOR ROLAND EMMERICH TAKES ANOTHER STAB AT DESTROING THE PLANET IN MOONFALL. HIS LATEST DISASTER MOVIE
BRYAN CAIRNS

Roland Emmerich has decimated the Earth over and over. The master of disaster obliterated major cities in Independence Day, turned the planet into a frozen wasteland in The Day After Tomorrow, and ravaged the globe with seismic catastrophes in 2012. Now he’s back with Moonfall, his latest doomsday outing, that puts the Moon on a direct collision course with Earth.

“From Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow to 2012, they are all different from each other,” Emmerich tells SFX. “Moonfall is also quite different because it’s 60-70% a space movie. It’s the race to stop the moon from crashing. In that regard, they are all unique… At least in my book.

Moonfall is a very simple concept,” he continues. “The Moon is falling on the Earth, but it’s not what we think it is. That’s the premise. What you actually learn is the Moon is like a constructed object. They have to fly inside the Moon to solve the problem.

“Because it’s two very big objects nearly touching, two planets, it was very different from what I normally do,” Emmerich adds. “The Moon, since it’s the smaller object, would typically break apart, but then it doesn’t because it’s a built object. When it comes very close, it has all kinds of effects on Earth.”

CLOUDING THE ISSUE

Moonfall opens with a space shuttle and its crew – astronauts Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Alan Marcus (Frank Fiola) – circling the planet and tinkering with a satellite. Everything seems hunky dory until an ominous black cloud swarms them and damages the vessel. Brian and an unconscious Jo survive, although Alan is not so lucky. The origin of the unidentifiable phenomenon? The inside of the Moon. Understandably, NASA dismisses Brian’s far-fetched story.

“I read a book called Who Built the Moon?, which actually really inspired me,” Emmerich says. “The authors had three different theories. For me, it was [an interesting idea] that the Moon was a constructed object. But I figured out another theory about where the Moon comes from.”

Twelve years after the orbital incident, NASA’s ignorance comes back to haunt the space programme when something goes terribly wrong. An unknown force knocks the Moon out of orbit, sending it hurtling towards the Earth. As a result, natural disasters start to plague the world. Mankind stands on the brink of extinction, but Jo believes she holds the key to salvation. It’s a race against the clock as a ragtag team of unlikely heroes – including Brian and conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley) – launch off into space on a perilous mission.

“At the beginning, Brian Harper is a happy-go-lucky guy, until he loses another astronaut in a space accident,” explains Emmerich. “He believes he saw something which is not from this world. Everybody else says, ‘No, this is a cover story. You screwed up’. What happens is Jo, the acting director of NASA, comes back to him and says, ‘We have to get one of the shuttles in the museum and fly up there’. A lot of things happen along the way. They want to catch this space anomaly and bring it back.

“What happens on Earth becomes less and less important,” he continues. “Then, what happens on the Moon becomes more crucial. At the very beginning, we had a lot of stuff happening on Earth. That changed. It’s now kind of the B-story. We worked quite hard on the script. It was difficult to make it feel realistic, so that took us quite a while.”

LUNAR TRICKS

Was the Moon manufactured?

How was the Moon created? Today, the most widely-accepted theory is that 4.6 billion years ago a Mars-sized planetary body struck the Earth, producing a ring of debris which over time eventually coalesced into a single satellite.

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