Friday, April 1, 2022

Movie Review: Moonshot

I assume it's entirely coincidental, but it's a little odd this movie was released on HBO Max just a day after Disney+ premiered Moon Knight. The two projects are nothing alike, though oddly Moonshot's tone feels closer to the generic MCU than the surprisingly dark Moon Knight. This one isn't about superheroes, though - just ordinary people. More accurately, it's about an ordinary person and an exceptional person, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Moonshot is a romantic comedy/science fiction hybrid, though it's a long way from an even split. Despite some light thematic commentary, the sci-fi stuff is almost entirely here as a backdrop. As far as the story and tone are concerned, this is a pretty straightforward breezy romcom. It's just set on a space ship flying towards a Martian colony three decades from now.

Overall, I don't consider that an issue, though there's part of me that wishes the "light thematic" stuff offered a little more meat. We get a very light ribbing of corporations and billionaires in the form of a minor character reminiscent of Elon Musk who shows up late in the film. He's the butt of several jokes, and the movie makes a point of reinforcing the message that corporations aren't looking out for our best interests, but I still felt like they treated him with kid gloves.

Likewise, environmental themes come up, but not in a way that carries much weight. This is the sort of messaging you'd expect from a kid's movie: we should care about our world and try to fix it. We're only ever given hints and brief glimpses into what we're supposed to be fixing, though. Trash is used repeatedly as a symbol, but that's as far as the movie's critique goes. We're not exposed to suffering as a result of environmental degradation or climate change - we're just kind of told there's a lot of garbage.

Again, I'm not certain this is an actual problem with the movie, because it's not trying to be serious science fiction or satire. This is first and foremost a romantic comedy with an unusual setting. The obvious comparison is The Princess Bride, though it feels unfair bringing that up. Moonshot isn't a tenth as good as The Princess Bride (what is?), but it is a solid entry in the subgenre.

Solid, but not exceptional. That said, it seems aware of its limitations and comfortable with what it is. This isn't trying to delve deeply into its characters or make them exceptionally complex. These are simple people with simple problems, and it's pretty obvious a few minutes in where the story's heading. Moonshot isn't dark or psychological. It plays at exploring existential questions, but - again - that's all setting. This is a simple love story about young adults, and the target audience is younger than that.

How much younger? Arguably, quite a bit. There's nothing in Moonshot I'd hesitate to show to a seven year old. It's rated PG-13, so I'm assuming there are a few swears I missed, but beyond that it's pretty tame. There are very brief references to sexuality, but nothing explicit. Likewise, there's no violence and virtually no danger. This is trying to be light and fun, not tense or suspenseful.

The reason it mostly works is it actually succeeds at being fun. It's a funny situation, the leads do good work, and - most importantly - the script is actually funny. It isn't hilarious, but it's good enough to be entertaining. "Good enough," might be the ultimate summation of the movie in a nutshell.

If anything, I might be underselling the movie a bit. While this is a long way from brilliant, there are a handful of clever decisions that make it impossible to write off. The design is both colorful and evocative of corporate branded properties in a way that offers a little more commentary than anything actually said in the film. It's also worth mentioning the cast is diverse - unlike some versions of the future, this one isn't populated exclusively with straight, white men.

I was also impressed the movie subverted the cliché of having the leading man be a mediocre white guy by making that textually the character description. He's essentially the same generic lead movies like this typically feature, but for once the world doesn't automatically elevate him to some sort of icon (or at least it doesn't without commenting on doing so). I nitpicked the movie for surface-level critiques of capitalism and climate change, so it's only fair I credit them with a surprisingly intelligent spin on this trope.

Aside from that, there wasn't much exceptional about this. But the flipside of that is that there wasn't anything particularly bad, either. The movie is enjoyable and funny enough to make the experience pleasant... just don't expect anything all that memorable.

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