I’ll actually go even further than that. Moonfall is the best Roland Emmerich movie since Independence Day and it isn’t particularly close. I was severely tempted to say it’s better than Independence Day but I think that’s a pretty clear case of recency bias.
For real, though. What did we like so much about Independence Day? If we had to sum it up briefly it would probably be something along the lines of likable characters in a visually impressive movie that put earnest effort into bringing an inherently silly, easily digestible concept to life.
And what did Independence Day: Resurgence give us? Unlikable characters in a visually dull movie that put no effort into bringing a stale concept to life.
I’ll give you three guesses which of these two descriptions can be Ctrl+C/Ctrl+Ved over to Moonfall.
Even though half of them were literally characters in the first Independence Day, I can tell you next to nothing about the major characters in Independence Day: Resurgence except for Dr. Brent Spiner. And I don’t WANT to tell you about his story because I’m still livid that that soulless movie took the only genuinely good thing about itself and carelessly flushed it down the toilet.
Moonfall’s characters are as two-dimensional as Independence Day’s, but importantly not as one-dimensional as Independence Day: Resurgence’s. I remember literally all of them. I know who and what they care about. I know how they relate to each other. All of their actions feel real and motivated. Independence Day: Resurgence just moves people around for the next plot point and people’s motivations are, idk man, they read the script I guess.
But where Independence Day: Resurgence really spectacularly failed, and Moonfall succeeds, is in the obvious effort that went into the film’s visuals.
I’ve compared Independence Day: Resurgence to a set of video game cutscenes or the pilot for a television show not just because of its lazy plotting and lack of dramatic vitality, but because its visuals are just stunningly mediocre at their best and astonishingly awful at their worst. For long stretches of the movie you just CAN’T SEE ANYTHING, and it feels like this was done on purpose to hide the lack of effort that would otherwise be on display.
Moonfall does what a disaster movie, or any popcorn movie whose central draw is visually stunning special effects shots, should do. It makes sure you can see EVERYTHING. It doesn’t make you feel cheated. And it rewards you with stunning shots of the moon just absolutely tearing apart the earth as it makes its terrifying descent. I gasped out loud at a few of the scenes in this movie.
(I also saw it in D-BOX, which I highly recommend because a well-made disaster movie is basically a theme park ride with added pathos.)
On top of all the little details that make this a spiritual successor to Independence Day, there’s one obvious, big picture one overriding everything else. This is maybe the most 90s blockbuster-like movie I’ve ever seen despite the fact that we are currently living through a boom period for 90s nostalgia. And I would frankly be 1000% onboard with this becoming a more common experience. Though my real fervent desire is a revival of the 00s blockbuster scene, the 90s will do just fine too. Just PLEASE save me from the MCU-addled shared universe purgatory the 2010s blockbuster scene devolved into. PLEASE. I am literally begging you.
This movie met or exceeded all of my realistic expectations, and even some of my unrealistic ones. There were only two unrealistic ones it didn’t meet. The first was having Adele belt out, “Let the moon fall, let it crumble! And we will stand tall! Together!” Which, like. There are probably legal reasons to not do that, plus the fact that a normal person wouldn’t have thought of it. Then again this movie has a bizarre dialogue callback to The Lost World: Jurassic Park for no apparent reason, so who knows?
The other is a bit more damning, nigh unforgivable. Without getting too spoilery, Patrick Wilson learns some important plot details, and his comrades ask him how he knows, and I swear to the gods he absolutely could have answered with “the moon told me” but he didn’t. And I’m just. I’m not over it, guys. How do you pass that up???