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Moonfall Asks: What if the Conspiracy Theorists Are Right?
What would that mean for the world at large?
The first time I saw Roland Emmerich’s 2012, I was at home with my dad, sick with strep throat. It was playing on tv, and I know it was before the year 2012 because I was anxiously watching it, almost as if watching it would solidify the actual end of the world.
Like a lot of others, I was terrified of the end of the Mayan Calendar. It was something I thought about every single day for years. December 31, 2012, I was in 8th grade, but I have memories of the anxiety it induced going back to mid-elementary school. Part of the reason it terrified me so much was because of how young I was. How could the world end? My life was just beginning! I spent that day in genuine fear for my life and even begged my parents to let me stay home from school to be with them for our last moments. Luckily, I’m here writing this for you today.
Regardless of my anxiety surrounding our world’s impending doom, I couldn’t talk and so I didn’t have much of a say in my dad’s movie choice. We watched it together and bonded over our love for conspiracy theories and Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey — an at-home-sick staple in my household. I’m pretty sure that after the movie was over, we binged Ancient Aliens for the rest of the day, one of our favorite shows that we watched together all the time.
Although the term “conspiracy theorist” might have a negative connotation attached to it, I think it’s rare to find someone these days that isn’t a conspiracy theorist in their own right. Not all conspiracy theories surround aliens or doomsday, though those theories are becoming increasingly popular. There are theories about almost anything. Politics, movies, Hollywood, and even the seemingly harmless mattress stores on every corner. I mean, have YOU ever seen someone walk in or out of them? I digress…
A 1999 Gallup poll shows at least a 5% disbelief in the moon landing, but considering that 5% account for millions of people, it’s hardly the small, niche theory people think it is.
In his newest film, Moonfall, Emmerich poses the question, “What if the conspiracy theorists were right?”
This is not the first time he’s done this, either. In 2012, he looks at what could happen if the Mayans were right in their premature ending of the calendar. While many people spent years discounting the validity of these ideas and claims, Emmerich gives validity to these opinions by guessing what just might happen in a few years if they were right all along.
In Independence Day, Randy Quaid plays an abductee and spearhead of alien conspiracists. Though people spend years ignoring his seemingly wacky theories, it’s him who the government turns to during an alien invasion due to his lived experience and extensive knowledge of aliens.
In Anonymous, Emmerich takes a look at one of history’s most fascinating conspiracy theories: Did William Shakespeare actually write literature’s greatest works? Or was it someone else?
There is clearly a theme with Emmerich’s work, and it’s an angle not many other directors are taking.
In Moonfall, we follow K.C. Houseman, played by John Bradley, a megastructurist who believes that the moon is an alien-created structure designed to perfectly sustain life here on Earth. He is the first to notice a shift in the Moon’s orbit and quickly realizes that the Moon is headed toward Earth.
K.C. spends a large chunk of the movie trying to convince people to listen to his theories. He holds meetings at a local hotel to connect with other megastructuralists and even posts his theories on social media to warn people about the Moon’s trajectory.
There are thousands of people that share conspiracy theories online every day. Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, Youtube, and even Twitch have become the most popular social media sites to host these kinds of conversations.
When NASA realizes this shift in the Moon’s orbit, former astronaut Brian Harper, played by Patrick Wilson, sees the intelligence in K.C. and realizes how pivotal his knowledge is to the successful mission of getting the Moon back where it belongs. Just like in Independence Day, the conspiracy theorist is vindicated in his beliefs by being the person needed to save the day.
When you look at the movie on a surface level, it’s not perfect. There are some plot holes, there is dialogue that doesn’t make a ton of sense, subplots are very loosely tied up, but the most interesting part of the movie is the thought that the conspiracy theorists we so often write off could be right about some things — think about how completely different our world would be if that is true.
The movie has a quick pace that kept me engaged the whole time, and I appreciated the comedic elements to spice the script up. I’ve only seen John Bradley in one other movie, Marry Me, but he really shines in his role as K.C. He is funny, yet compelling, and regardless of how crazy you might find his theories, you root for him the entire way. Also an honorable mention for his cat, Fuzz Aldrin, which is the cutest name ever.
I think where this movie really shines is also the collaboration between theorist and professional. It would be so easy to disrespect K.C.’s character and it would also be so easy to have K.C. be an anti-establishment-type. But they don’t. There is a resounding mutual sense of respect among everyone in the film, and it makes you root for everyone so much more because of that.
Roland Emmerich has managed to consistently tap into a group of people that so many other storytellers and directors write off. So, is he a conspiracy theorist?
No. He’s not.
In fact, he’s skeptical about many of the concepts he makes films about. What he does find compelling, however, is the built-in interest that surrounds these theories considering how many people do believe them. Rather than hope his movies spark genuine interest in the deeper theories at work, he simply wants it to be thrilling for audience members.
And it totally was.
Do you like this approach Emmerich continues to take? What were your thoughts on the movie?