There is no way around it, this may be the dumbest movie of the year. The premise is silly, the dialogue is stupid and the ultimate explanation will leave you feeling incredulous at the crap that some people might believe. That said, you will probably still have a good time because all of the stupidity plays out in pretty solid special effects at a reasonable pace, with a little humor thrown in now and then and those jokes were intentional.
Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry are working for a paycheck and having a little fun, and for the most part they play it straight. No one could take this seriously, so the laughs are not unexpected but they may be unintentional. I have not seen “Don’t Look Up”, but my understanding is that the satire in that film is supposed to make us think seriously about our institutions. This film has no such pretentions. This is presented as a straight drama, but nothing in it is believable. I saw in the credits that there were actual consultants from NASA who advised the film makers, but whatever they said must have largely been ignored.
Let’s talk about what is fun in the movie and ignore the idiocy for a moment. For years I joked with my students about the persuasive power of a TV commercial where a Toyota tows a Space Shuttle down the street. If the director had placed a Toyota Tundra in one scene of this movie, it would have amplified the moment ten times over, someone missed a trick here. Even so, it was still fun when a decommissioned Space Shuttle is hijacked to be the vehicle the astronaut rescue team is going to use. Having walked by the building that house Endeavor on my way to the USC football games each weekend, it was a blast seeing the L.A. Coliseum in the background and the streets of L.A. littered with debris. It is also outright hysterical when the gravity of the Moon starts lifting objects off the ground like a tornado. In fact, the large tree that pins a character to the ground flies up in the air, although the characters do not. The gravity wave is the most interesting visual effect in the movie and it’s mixture with the launch of the Space Shuttle looks great but seem preposterous.
The main reason we go to films like this is that it is safe disaster porn. Unlike the footage from 9/11 or the scenes of the Japanese tsunami, we know what we are looking at is a fiction, and we don’t have to feel like ghouls watching a traffic accident as we drive by, because it is not real. The destruction of the cities is vivid with the exception that we don’t really see any people dead afterwards. It’s just a picture we can look on with mock horror and still sleep at night later. Roland Emmerich has destroyed the planet three or four times before. I think “2012” was more elaborate, “Independence Day” was more fun, and “Godzilla” may actually be more intelligent. Start the popcorn maker, shut off your brain, and don’t let your self worth be defined by enjoying any of this, that would be taking it too seriously.