Weekend Roundtable: Moon Movies

Mankind has been fascinated with the moon for as long as our species has been able to crane our necks up to look at it. Our few attempts to visit the place were pretty spectacular achievements, as the new film First Man attests. In this week’s Roundtable, we look at some of cinema’s other memorable depictions of our nearest celestial neighbor.

Deirdre Crimmins

Not the best, not the worst, but perhaps the most far-fetched film featuring the moon (and a personal favorite of mine) is Iron Sky. The 2012 movie supposes a near-future 2018 where the Nazis come back in full force from their hiding place… on the dark side of the moon. Yup. I could not make this up if I tried. These Germans evacuated in the post WWII scuffle and set up their new base where no nation would think to look for them. Since then, they’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to invade Earth and take their position of power against the non-Aryan nations. The film’s absurd premise is enhanced by the fact that it refuses to take itself seriously. Stephanie Paul plays an over-the-top Sarah Palin approximation and skewers the former governor with gusto. And Udo Kier’s scene-stealing turn as a Nazi officer adds to the feeling that Iron Sky is just one insane, lunar fever dream.

Jason Gorber

Lunarcy!, the 2012 documentary by Simon Ennis, showcases astronauts, astrophysicists and more than a few oddballs who share a fascination with our closest celestial companion. The film beautifully introduces one not only to the wonder and fascination of the satellite but also the tide-like pull that it holds upon our imaginations.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for monsterkind.

We had a pretty good thing going with Earth’s many colossal beasts for a while there. The kaiju are having a grand old time on the islands of Monsterland. They’re not leveling Tokyo, and we’re not flexing our military muscle their way. It’s a win/win!

Alas, the movie’s not titled Destroy All Monsters for nothing, as the alien Kilaaks have stomped all over this fragile peace. Under their thrall, these many monsters – among them Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan – have once again launched an assault on Earth’s most populated cities.

The ultimate key to freeing the kaijus’ minds awaits on the moon, as the United Nations Science Committee must launch an all-out assault on the Kilaaks’ lunar base and seize control of this otherworldly mind control technology.

Admittedly, we’re not talking about a movie set predominantly on the moon. Still, without that memorable lunar attack, the mentally-manipulated monsters would’ve just kept squaring off against mankind. Instead, we get to leave the planet altogether for a bit, and we’re treated afterwards to all sorts of kaiju-on-kaiju battles royale. The scale of the devastation is pretty spectacular, and it’s an indescribable thrill to see so many of these Shōwa-era behemoths share the stage. Thanks, moon, for making dreams come true.

M. Enois Duarte

The most notable action sequence set on the moon has to be, hands down, the fight with Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. In fact, the entire scene taking place on the moon is freaking hilarious with one ridiculously dumb, over-the-top joke after another.

What made it even funnier for me was watching it with my best friend. The dude has one of the craziest, loudest and most rambunctious laughs I’ve ever heard produced by the human body. He laughed so hard and obnoxiously loud that he actually drowned out some of the audio in the theater. People were ever turning in the seats to look at us and probably laughed even harder at the fight sequence. Not only is that scene hilarious on its own, but it was made more memorable by my best friend’s enjoyment of it.

Josh Zyber

The movies took us to the moon right from the very beginning of cinema. Georges Méliès’ legendary 1902 silent short A Trip to the Moon depicts a group of astronomers’ fantastical expedition to a lunar surface populated with hostile aliens called Selenites. The science of the film is pretty goofy, but the imagination and cinematic ingenuity on display are still extraordinary.

It’s also difficult to write a Roundtable about moon movies without mentioning… well, Moon. Duncan Jones’ 2009 sci-fi drama about a lonely mining worker (Sam Rockwell) going batty during a solitary mission stationed on a lunar base is a pretty clever indie production that explores some interesting concepts.

Of course, I can’t let this topic go without at least an honorable mention to the moon base in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Your Turn

What are your favorite movies that voyage to the moon?


    • ShermantheGerman

      Could not agree more. Of course, now we have a major discontinuity with Superman II, and First Man. Ryan, if you don’t plant that flag, how in the heck is Nom going to carry it around on his shoulder. No, wait, I get it. That was a JOINT moon mission with the US and USSR. My bad!

  1. Csm101

    Moontrap. Unfortunately, the bluray seems to be of poor quality so I never picked it up, but I’m sure another label will someday release a decent version of it.

  2. Judas Cradle

    Great UK film FIRST MEN IN THE MOON. It is wonderfully fun movie based on HG Wlles story.
    Good old fashioned fun with Ray Harryhausen effects.
    From IMDB (yeah, I’m being lazy!):
    Based on the HG Wells story. The world is delighted when a space craft containing a crew made up of the world’s astronauts lands on the moon, they think for the first time. But the delight turns to shock when the astronauts discover an old British flag and a document declaring that the moon is taken for Queen Victoria proving that the astronauts were not the first men on the moon. On Earth, an investigation team finds the last of the Victorian crew – a now aged Arnold Bedford and he tells them the story of how he and his girlfriend, Katherine Callender, meet up with an inventor, Joseph Cavor, in 1899. Cavor has invented Cavorite, a paste that will allow anything to deflect gravity and he created a sphere that will actually take them to the moon. Taking Arnold and accidentally taking Katherine they fly to the moon where, to their total amazement, they discover a bee-like insect population who take an unhealthy interest in their Earthly visitors…

      • Barsoom Bob

        Worth the effort, they did a particularly good job on the transfer for this one. Although it has only one true Harryhausan animated creature and a couple of animated Selenites, it is fun and a pretty good movie for it’s time.

  3. EM

    Since 2001 and “Trip to the Moon” have both been mentioned, I’ll throw in Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman’s Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil). Mostly this fantasy live-action/animated movie is set on Earth, but it begins with a beautiful sequence depicting various means of higher and higher ascent, culminating in a moon landing in which the astronaut is surprised to learn he’s not the first: The (literary) techniques of the 19th and earlier centuries have allowed others to precede him! After meeting the likes of Cyrano de Bergerac, he sets out with Munchausen to make the return trip to Earth—and that’s when things get crazy. If you like Terry Gilliam’s style, you owe it to yourself to check out this film, realized by one of his major inspirations (Gilliam, of course, would later make his own Munchausen flick).

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