Why Throwback Movies Like Moonfall Are Still Important Today

This past weekend co-writer/director Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall debuted at the box office. And depending on who you talk to, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Playing out like a greatest hits collection from this master of disaster, it’s hard not to get what you’d expect out of this lunar adventure, which clocked in with a second place opening weekend. That’s not an insult in any sense though, as cast members Patrick Wilson and John Bradley agree that throwbacks such as this are still very important at the movies, thanks to that very specific set of thrills. 

Even Mr. Emmerich himself claims that his latest exercise in destruction is a cross between two of his previous films, which is one of the many facts we knew before going into Moonfall. Much like its direct competitor Jackass Forever, this movie was made with very specific audience members in mind, planning its thrills with a steady hand at work. Patrick Wilson discussed that very subject with me, as he was one of the cast members I was able to speak with during the film’s press day. Reflecting on the fun of making a Roland Emmerich movie, Wilson told CinemaBlend that the experience inspired him to think ahead to the fun it would inspire in theaters, even during uncertain times: 

Even then I thought I didn’t know where we’d be, like any of us, with COVID. But I knew this was gonna be an important movie to see in the theaters, because this is an absolute escapist movie. I hope people can go see it in theaters, and enjoy it in the way that it’s intended to be seen.

Escapism has definitely ruled the box office, as seen most recently through Spider-Man: No Way Home’s previous domination of the theatrical landscape. This weekend saw two of this year’s new kids taking the top spots by storm, and Moonfall still brought out the fanbase of apocalypse enthusiasts to theaters all over. Acting as one of this year’s first over the top tentpoles, the Halle Berry led ensemble cast has planted a flag for sci-fi thrills and continued blockbuster entertainment. 

Of course, adventures that tear our planet a new one have always been a constant source of joy when heading to the movies. Long before Roland Emmerich was summoning alien invaders, climate change, and prophecies of gloom and doom to knock the Earth down a peg, plenty of genre movies laid the path that he would become so enamored with as a young man. Most notably, Irwin Allen spectacles like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno would pit all-star casts against life or death scenarios with a high amount of property damage. 

Watching that sort of destruction play out on a screen is practically built into the cinematic experience. It’s also a good way for audiences to be presented stories of people from all walks facing almost certain doom. That might be the most valuable piece of the Moonfall puzzle, or at least it’s what John Bradley seems to think, as he laid out why he feels this sort of excitement is still important to be enjoyed: 

I genuinely think that movies like this, they’re not depressing movies. And in the long term, I think they have a hand to play in giving you a bigger appreciation of your life. Because you can come out of that movie, and you may have complained about things before you went in. About how cold your coffee is, and all the other complaints you have in your life. You come out of that, you see the world exactly as you remembered it, the Moon isn’t crashing into the Earth, so it makes you count your blessings a bit, I think.

Just as Irwin Allen’s works have clearly inspired Roland Emmerich, the Independence Day director has his fair share of imitators as well. Most recently, STX Films saw themselves score a hit of similar intent, thanks to the performance of the Gerard Butler disaster epic Greenland. Proving the market for boom and doom is still pretty lucrative, that film is already in the midst of bringing its rapidly developing sequel Migration to the masses. If the weeks to come are kind, maybe we’ll get to see more action on the horizon, especially since the Moonfall ending contains a pretty massive sequel hook.

You can't be in a bad mood when chunks of the Moon are raining down, taking out major landmarks at a steady clip. Provided, of course, you're safely on the side of the screen that doesn't involve fire and gravity waves. When the credits role, and the lights come up, the comfort of knowing you can still grab a coffee in stable gravity can do quite a bit for the soul if you let it.

If you’re ready to see Moonfall ruin the day of planet Earth, you can head to a theater near you to see the fun in conventional and premium format experiences. After the Moon has fallen, you can check out another one of the upcoming movies that are on the way to entice moviegoers back to their local multiplexes. And don’t forget to listen to the most recent episode of ReelBlend, where Roland Emmerich himself dished about Moonfall and beyond with our hosts. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.