Sometimes things just don’t work out. Maybe the should. Maybe they could. They just don’t. That is the biggest takeaway message both in and about “Moonwalkers” (2016).
Directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet from a screenplay by Dean Craig, “Moonwalkers” hypothesizes that perhaps, just perhaps, the CIA commissioned a video faking the moon landing in case Neil Armstrong and the Apollo mission weren’t successful. The basic idea being that in order to show the Communists and the world the U.S. succeeded, the U.S. could roll in the fake landing footage if Armstrong didn’t make it and we’d win the battle (whatever the battle was) over the Soviets.
So, we, the audience, get to watch as Ron Perlman’s CIA Agent, Kidman, travels to London to hire Stanley Kubrick to fake the landing and gets duped by a failing (and flailing) rock band manager, Jonny (Rupert Grint), and an unemployed (and seemingly unemployable) actor, Leon (Robert Sheehan). The basic, and obvious, faults of Jonny and Leon play out against the stone-cold, but coming unhinged following a stint in Vietnam, Kidman.
As a comedy, it all sounds like it could be quite successful. Jonny has Leon pretend to be Kubrick and by the time Kidman works it out, it’s too late, he’s got to go down the road with Jonny, Leon, and their increasingly odd band of cohorts. Plus, this all happens using the backdrop of one of the most popular conspiracy theories of our age – that the U.S. never landed on the moon.
Unfortunately, all “Moonwalkers” has to offer story-wise is the premise alongside oddball characters. Watching it all unravel, one keeps waiting for Bardou-Jacquet to stop showing the pieces of the movie and to put it all together. It isn’t until one is almost halfway through the film that the horrific realization comes about that what we are seeing aren’t distractions that will eventually move into the main movie, but rather the main movie itself. Things never gel in the film. Things never get going.
This is all made even worse because it ends (no, I’m not going to spoil anything) with a very clever, if slightly telegraphed, moment. It only makes me even more convinced that the basic idea is a great one, but a great idea in search of a better film.
I have spent a lot of time puzzling this out since I watched the movie, trying to come up with reasons why such a fun idea with enjoyable actors fizzles almost completely. The problem with this is that it leads a little a too much into a “what I would have done” sort of scenario and that’s ridiculous and most certainly not the task at hand.
So, attempting to avoid this pitfall, I will say that the movie finally takes a wrong turn from which it cannot recover once the actual prep for filming the fake landing begins. Because Kidman follows Jonny and Leon’s lead, he finds himself working with a drugged out, completely hopeless director, Renatus (Tom Audenaert).
As silly and ridiculous as things might be before that, the decision to work with Renatus as opposed to doing anything else is a step too far. We aren’t meant to feel that everything in the film is believable, but it is impossible to accept Kidman’s working with Renatus.
That realization on the part of the audience entirely ends one’s suspension of disbelief. All of the sudden, every other not-terribly-believable moment we have seen to that point in the movie (and there are many) comes flooding back and every problem we see moving forward is illuminated that much more brightly. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Back on the positive side of things, there are some absolutely beautiful camera shots throughout the movie. Truly mesmerizing stuff, particularly the opening moments with Perlman. At least some of the shots throughout the movie are going to be effects work and some are just Glynn Speeckaert’s cinematography. However it came together in the end, the look and feel of “Moonwalkers” is superior in every way to the movie itself.
Even thinking back on it, I really want to like “Moonwalkers.” I like the cast. I like the premise. I like some of the scenarios in the movie. I just don’t like it as a whole, there are some choices in it that I just completely lost me and, I think, will lose others as well.
photo credit: Alchemy