Friday, October 5, 2012

Half Moon: "Moon 44" (1990)

Director Emmerich, of the awful "Independence Day," the underrated "Godzilla," and the dull "The Patriot," had to start somewhere...

Michael Pare, turning in the exact same performance he has always turned in, plays an agent for a multi galaxial conglomerate (no, not Microsoft) who must investigate the title moon to find out why mining shuttles are disappearing and aliens keep attacking it. He is shipped to the moon as part of a bunch of run of the mill prisoners who have volunteered to fly fighters against any attack.

There, he meets up with Dean Devlin (currently Emmerich's producing and writing partner), a whistle blower who will help Pare. First, we must deal with a subplot involving prisoners versus navigators, who are all skinny and hairless and easily picked on by the manly steroidish looking prisoners, led by Brian Thompson.

Conflict resolved, Pare weeds out the bad guy (Malcolm McDowell, who else could it be with him in the cast?), and fights a wave of robot aliens who want the planet. Characters die, Pare returns, and he recreates the closing moments from "RoboCop," as he tells off the corporate bigwigs in one of those scenes you are supposed to cheer about.

First off, Devlin turns in an outstanding performance as Tyler, Pare's navigator. He is very good, despite some silly lines and scenes. Lisa Eichhorn is awful as the commander of the fighter base, she reads her lines as if seeing them for the first time, and in one crucial scene, as she verbally dresses down the prisoners, her voice cracks. This was written for a much stronger female actress, like Sigourney Weaver, or even Miss Piggy.

The set design is clicheed but excellent. There is no point to the dark steam emitting from mysterious vents in outer space, but this one is very good. The fighter flying effects leave something to be desired. Emmerich tries to hide the cheap looking models by drenching them with a smoke machine, but they still look like toys on fishing line. What is with Emmerich and canyon flying? All the action takes place in a maze of canyons, "Independence Day" also had a battle in a canyon, and even "Godzilla" could consider the streets of Manhattan as looking like cement canyons. Weird.

The special effects are not the showcase here as they are in other Emmerich films, so he decides to put in the very weak subplot of the buff prisoners knocking around the nerdy navigators. We see one prisoner rape a male navigator (since all prisoners are sexually violent), and we see the navigators use their noggins to show the prisoners who is really boss (since all skinny guys are computer nerds at heart). Since we know MacDowell is the villain (with no motive), we must suffer through the kind of storylines normally seen on "JAG," before a very unconvincing final battle that just shows Emmerich wanted more money than he got in his budget.

"Moon 44" is not a bad film, and it is not a good film, it is completely and blatantly average. I will slightly recommend it, but only to diehard sci-fi fans. (* * *) out of five stars.