No Moonfall? No Problem

 The latest Rolland Emmerich disaster film, Moonfall, ended up getting pulled from Canadian cinemas shortly before its scheduled release.  Opening in the United States, the film barely scratched past $10 million in ticket sales.  Personally, I was very surprised by this move to pull it from my local theatre.  Also personally, I was alright with it.

The best estimation as to why this happened would be because there wasn't a lot of faith in the quality of the movie.  There hadn't been any guarantees of when Canadian cinemas would open, and the official word was that the distributor didn't want to spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing only to have the theatres shuttered.

On one hand, this makes some sense.  Why pour all of those resources into marketing if it cannot be released?  But the fact is that it could be released, just perhaps not on opening weekend.  Even in a worst case scenario, I'm sure that Lionsgate knew that Moonfall could still hit Canadian audiences shortly after the American launch.  Any marketing dollars spent would still be able to lead to a release, just one that may have been a week or two late.

The problem with certain big budget tentpole films is that they can make most of their money in the opening weekend.  If the quality of the film isn't very high, the opening weekend matters even more, as bad word of mouth would affect it going into its second weekend.  Myself and Christopher believe that they knew the word of mouth wouldn't be good.  To release it in Canada after our nice neighbours to the south had seen it could mean that negative reactions would greatly impact the Canadian box office tallies.

With our theatres now open in Ontario, Christopher and I were both able to watch Scream, a movie that debuted on January 14th in the States.  While it wasn't able to launch day and date with the American theatres, it still came out.  With Moonfall, it was just a guess that it may be missing opening weekend (which it would have still hit if it hadn't been pulled).  Scream still hit theatres, even though it was three weeks old by that point.  The argument Lionsgate made for Moonfall really doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.

Regardless of why it happened, I'm fine with this decision.  I would have gone and watched it, but now I don't have to.  This would have been a screening out of a sense of duty to the podcast, and not because I really wanted to see it.

Emmerich has made his career on massive budget disaster films.  The only one I enjoyed was when I saw Independence Day in theatres.  While the story and characters weren't great, it was a visual and auditory experience that I had never witnessed before.  The cost of the ticket was easily justified due to the scale and intensity of what I saw.

On the latest episode of The Movie Breakdown, Christopher brought up a really good point.  In the early years of Emmerich's career, his big spectacles were a unique special effects experience.  With the development of CGI technology, there are numerous films every year that can create a visual extravaganza.  There is no longer any reason to see a film based solely on the fact that it looks good.  Just ask Michael Bay and the diminishing returns of the Transformer films.

I really do not enjoy disaster films, with a few exceptions.  A lot of the time, they are about pointless characters that we follow as millions of people on the planet are dying, and we are expected to care about the main characters as they act selfishly.  In a real world apocalyptic event, I sure would act selfishly.  But in a movie where escapism is key, I need to really care about these people over all of the millions that are dying.  Almost always, I just don't give a crap.

The idea that something should be compelling to me just because it's a struggle to survive doesn't work with me.  Struggling to survive is the backbone of so many hundreds of poorly made slasher films.  Just because there is a killer out there doesn't automatically mean that I am gripped.  I would be in real life, but in films the stakes only work if we attach to the characters.  Once again, in real life I would be gripped, but only because I care about myself and my survival.  Characters and caring for them is key.

This is not Emmerich's strong point.  He never really shows dedication to crafting the people on screen.  For him, it is all about the big set pieces, and everything else is inconsequential.  No longer is that good enough to get audiences, as there are much better special effects offerings regularly screening in theatres.  Maybe now is the time for his films to debut on streaming services, although that still wouldn't motivate me enough to watch it.  Only out of duty to the podcast do I see myself watching another Rolland Emmerich film.