MOON 44

moon 44

MOON 44 (1990)

TAGLINE: “In the Outer Zone… you need a friend”

IMDB rating: 4.7 / 10

Even for those who haven’t fully travelled the highways and byways of low-rent cinema, anyone who has settled into a multiplex seat during any of the past 20 blockbuster seasons has surely marvelled – however ironically – at the work of Roland Emmerich.  He bestrides the summer like a Teutonic Overlord, megaphone in one hand, half-baked screenplay in the other.

moon 44

Roland Emmerich: Meister Of Disaster

His movies are noisy, barking, and very, very profitable. So, if you sat there happily munching your popcorn like a lobotomised vivisection monkey while the Earth froze… or Godzilla trampled NYC… or The White House was lasered into rubble, or swept away by a tidal wave, then you’ve contributed, at least in part, to Herr Direktor’s newest beach house in Malibu.

Collectively, Emmerich’s films have made more money than the Gross Domestic Product of Fiji. (Absolutely true). In fact, you’d still have enough cash left over to buy the entire Fijian population a subterranean shelter, to protect them from an unexpected apocalypse, or passing alien invasion.

Any one of his films could, should and probably will end up falling under the watchful eye of Bride Of Crapula at some point in the future. Just by way of example, Emmerich’s recent film, the Shakespearean conspiracy thriller, is so bad that the film’s original title even successfully campaigned to have itself taken off the movie – thus it’s now known simply as ‘Anonymous’. However – for now – we’ll leave the Apple-integrated motherships, and Pyramid-building woolly mammoths for another day and, instead, concentrate on a much earlier example of the uber-hack’s oeuvre. You probably haven’t seen Roland Emmerich’s first English-language movie. We, on the other hand, couldn’t look away.

Moon 44’ opens in the black emptiness of outer space where, apparently in this instance, no one can hear the audience yawn.

We’ll ultimately look back upon this achingly empty chasm of unparalleled nothingness as the film’s highpoint.

Into the story lurches a tough, grizzled stereotype of a futuristic cop, (Michael Pare), assigned to go undercover at a remote mining outpost deep in space. Someone inside the system is tipping the wink to a ruthless band of alien robot pirates who are threatening to spoil the party for everyone back on Earth. You can tell it’s the future because everyone’s sporting ultra-cool haircuts from approximately 4 years before the film was made… as well as wearing silver jumpsuits.

moon 44

Bad To The Boner

The titular moon is peopled by its very own collection of heavenly bodies – a mixture of gruff and buff prisoners, who’ve chosen a mining gig in space over a life sentence back home, as well as a cheerleading squad of smooth-chested, tech-savvy young men. While apparently both groups work under the command of Malcolm MacDowell to assist in the excavation of some precious commodity that’s so damn precious, it’s not even worth mentioning by any characters during the course of the film, their main function appears to be working – strangely in tandem – to protect the lunar colony from almost constant attack from the robot aliens. Confused? We certainly were.

moon 44

"Is this REAL suede...?"

What’s even weirder is that, while “the lifers” are tasked with buzzing around the exterior of the planet in their NOT TIE FIGHTERS, picking off invaders one by one, it’s their twink-ish counterparts back at base who seem to be in charge of remotely handling much of the individual ships’ controls. Quite why it takes a decidedly more sweet-smelling navigator back home to accelerate, brake and steer while the “pilot” remains in the cockpit firing the guns is anyone’s guess. But it’s a point the film deems necessary to ram down the audience’s throats whenever the opportunity arises so it’s got to mean something, we’re sure.

So, approximately 40 minutes into ‘Moon 44’, we’ve set up a futuristic world where a space detective infiltrates a working prison to investigate underhand dealings and possible treason which threatens to bring down an indispensible off-world facility.

Yes, the plot is prosaic, the characters (almost) one dimensional and the acting enjoyably erratic, but the effects aren’t atrocious, the sets are passable and the miniature work is pretty decent. It’s hardly ‘Star Wars’, but we’re set up nicely for a bargain bin sci-fi actioner to play out to a barnstorming finale.

And then the raping begins.

It’s not every science fiction movie that takes time out from intense battles and geopolitical machinations to make way for a shower scene, especially a movie with almost no female characters. But this is ‘Moon 44’ and, even in zero gravity, the soap still needs to be picked up occasionally.

Quite why grizzled convicts and sweetie-pie boffins are required to share communal washing facilities is anyone’s guess… although the director apparently has his reasons. What we’re certain of, though, is that the film takes an unhealthy delight in the discomfort of a cornered Twinkie as he’s forcibly unwrapped by his prisoner counterpart.

It’s a scene that’s an incongruous as it is shocking.

Of course, revenge is – if not sweet – then certainly swift. On the pilot/rapist’s very next sortie, his navigator/victim remotely steers his ship straight into a massive space rock, obliterating both man and machine in a thunderous fireball.

The un-surprise overwhelms us.

The bizarre remote piloting system as set up earlier in the movie pays off in the most (un)expected way! Who could have predicted that such an unusual and seemingly superfluous detail that had been threaded through the story with all the subtlety of a breeze block to the balls would become so significant later in the film?

The audience, that’s who… because the filmmakers seem to think they’ve written a twist worthy of ‘The Sixth Sense’, it’s more worthy of ‘The 6th Day‘ – except with slightly more sexually aggravated assault.

So quickly is the whole rape-revenge subplot forgotten by both characters and filmmakers, that it renders the entire sorry episode both utterly meaningless and horribly manipulative… and it’s not exactly the kind of scene a film can easily come back from.

So, while ‘Moon 44’ plays out to its predictably ridiculous conclusion, when the robot aliens finally mount their massive and definitive assault, to which the battle-hardened warriors inexplicably give it trousers, (leaving Michael Pare to save the day), it’s the memory of the shower scene that remains. And that’s a memory we can’t wash away.

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