Ahh, I remember the days of practical models and effects fondly. There’s an air of realism to seeing an actual scale model travelling towards a planet. It creates a very tangible feel to all aspects of the film, and even helps to combat any budget issues that would have otherwise appeared on screen.
And let’s face it, if you compare Moon 44 with fellow 1990 sci-fi release Total Recall, there are clearly vast budget differences between the two. It’s a far cry from Roland Emmerich’s later film efforts. At least here he’s only destroyed Earth from afar. Well, its natural resources anyway.
The year 2038. Resources have run out on Earth. This has led the conglomerates to head off into space and mine the stars. After standard corporate rivalries lead to them attacking one another and valuable trained pilots are wiped out, some corporations are forced to use convicts to bolster their workforce. These convicts fly helicopters on the asteroids and moons being mined, while back at base they are directed and guided by a young tech nerd apiece.
Michael Pare is Felix Stone. He’s asked to go undercover on the titular Moon 44 to find out why automated mining tools are going missing. He’s a smoking, wisecracking son of a gun who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “undercover”. Right from the off he seems intent on letting people know who he is and why he’s there.
The mining facility is run by Malcolm McDowell’s Major Lee, and his very angry and incredibly shouty second in command Sergeant Sykes (Leon Rippy). They are the first line of suspicion and, let’s face it, the script doesn’t have anywhere near enough depth for it to be anybody else. Meanwhile genre favourite Brian Thompson offers a bit of tension as an angry convict, and Lisa Eichhorn is the obligatory female face. Don’t expect character development for her or, indeed, anybody else. There’s a weird scene where one of the young tech guys is either beaten up or raped in the showers. This would have had far more impact if they had developed the characters involved in that exchange more. As it is, it seems like a random inclusion that adds little to the final product.
Stephen Geoffreys, possibly best known for his role as Ed in the original Fright Night, plays a very similar character here called Cookie. Thankfully he doesn’t have much to do or say. If he did, there would be a very real risk of something being thrown at the television. Whether that’s his actual voice or it’s just his “screen voice”, the fact is it grates horribly. The sooner somebody else has opportunity to talk, the better.
All this is fine if it was either exciting, compelling, different, or a combination of all three. It happens to be none of them. The only redeeming factor is that they use practical models. All of those sequences look the part. Unfortunately it’s let down by bad acting and a script that doesn’t know what its’ trying to achieve.
The worst part? It makes his other films, such as the horrendous 2012 look like they’re almost worth watching. Trust me. They’re not. They simply prove that throwing money at a project can’t make up for a poor script. Although, ironically, Independence Day doesn’t quite fall into the same trap.