Moonshot (2022) ☆☆(2/4): As they’re heading to Mars

My demand is not that high when I watch any film which happens to draw my interest, but “Moonshot”, which was released on HBO Max in last week, let me down in more than one way. As a romantic comedy, the movie is pretty predictable to the core without surprising or amusing me that much, and that made me more aware of its rather bland storytelling and thin characterization. As a movie decorated with science fiction elements, it woefully lacks imagination and creativity to say the least, and I only came to wonder more about how cheap it is for its filmmakers to produce the film.

The movie begins its story with its hero’s longtime aspiration toward Mars. It is 2049, and space travel has become a bit more common than before thanks to considerable technological advancement while Mars is going through the first stages of colonization. Although he is not so distinguished in many aspects, Walt (Cole Sprouse) still wants to go to Mars someday as he has always wished, and we get some little laugh from how he is still miserably stuck in his mundane daily life on the Earth.

Anyway, there comes an unexpected moment of motivation for Walt during one evening party he happens to crash into. He comes across a pretty girl, and, as they talk with each other more after leaving the party, he soon finds himself quite attracted to her, and it seems she also likes him enough to let him be around her more. Sadly, she will get on a spaceship to Mars on the very next day, so it looks like that is the end of their little nice moment, but Walt becomes quite determined to find any possible way to follow after her.

While he is not particularly rich enough to buy a spaceship ticket (It costs around one million dollars, by the way), Walt is ready to grab any possible opportunity, and the chance comes to him a few days later via Sophie (Lana Condor), another girl whom he happened to encounter at that evening party. Although their first encounter was not exactly pleasant, Sophie comes to let out her thoughts and feelings about her boyfriend who is currently in Mars along with his family, and Walt encourages her to go to Mars right now because he is going to take advantage of her following decision.

Once she gets on the next spaceship to Mars, Sophie belatedly comes to learn of Walt’s opportunistic plan. He managed to sneak in the spaceship right before it left the Earth, and he is going to hide in Sophie’s cabin during next several weeks before the spaceship eventually arrives in Mars. While she is naturally exasperated, Sophie has no choice but to help Walt, and that is the beginning of their uneasy space trip to Mars.

Around that narrative point, you will already have a pretty good idea on where the story and characters are heading, and, unfortunately, the screenplay by Max Taxe is often deficient in terms of humor, tension, and personality. While what is being at stake for our two young lead characters is almost non-existent, the movie frequently stumbles as occasionally throwing casual moments of cheap humor, and many of supporting figures surrounding Walt and Sophie are more or less than broad caricatures simply existing for mild laughs.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Walt and Sophie come to care more about each other than they can admit on the surface, but their supposedly playful moments do not work well despite the good efforts from the two lead performers in the film. While Cole Sprouse, who is mainly known for the recent American TV drama series “Riverdale”, is fairly engaging on the whole, I cannot help but point out that his character is no more than a pesky dude who causes considerable troubles for others who happen to be associated with him, and you may not be so surprised by how Walt’s dream girl responds to him when they finally meet each other again later in the story (Is this a spoiler?). In case of Lana Condor, this wonderful actress was simply charming in Netflix film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018) and its two following sequels, but she is sadly stuck with her rather bland character here, and the only consolation for us is that she somehow acquits herself well despite that.

Above all, the movie is quite dissatisfying in terms of its futuristic background details. I understand that space has become a bit mundane stuff on the screen since “Gravity” (2013) and “Interstellar” (2014), but director Chris Winterbauer and his crew members merely give us a number of mediocre scenes drenched in plain and unimpressive CGIs, and a subplot involved with a big technology corporation CEO played by Zach Braff, who is clearly based on Elon Musk, is redundant at best and distracting at worst.

Although it is passable as a lightweight romantic comedy, “Moonshot” seriously lacks elements to make it a bit more distinctive at least, and I often found myself observing its story and characters without much care. Maybe I was a bit too generous as giving three stars to Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson’s recent comedy film “Marry Me” (2022), but that commercial product has more charm and wit in comparison, and I sincerely recommend you to watch it or Richard Linklater’s recent Netflix film “Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” (2022) instead, which did a better job of doing some comedy in the space. Believe me, you will have a much more productive time with either of them.

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