2561: Moonfall

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Novel ideas and cool explosions are both good, but what I really want from a movie is novel ideas ABOUT cool explosions.
Title text: Novel ideas and cool explosions are both good, but what I really want from a movie is novel ideas ABOUT cool explosions.


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Megan asks Cueball if he is excited for the release of the movie Moonfall.

Moonfall is an upcoming 2022 movie scheduled for release in February. Its director, Roland Emmerich, is known for blowing up things in his movies (see for instance the Roland Emmerich Supercut), as well as for factual inaccuracies in his work (mainly the scientific implausibility of his many disaster movies like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012).

The plot of Moonfall is scientifically preposterous, making it potentially "cringe-worthy" for someone who enjoys "hard" science fiction, like Cueball.

For the moon to fall from the sky, it would have to stop orbiting. Most forces applied it to will simply change the way in which it is orbiting, making it more elliptical, larger or smaller. To stop it from orbiting entirely, a 'braking' force would need to be applied in the opposite direction of its travel, to halt it.

The moon's mass is about 0.07346×10²⁴ kg and its speed about 1.022 km/s, so the energy needed to stop it is ½mv² or about 3.8364×10²⁸ joules. That's about the energy of 1 trillion large nuclear explosions, centered on the leading-most point of the moon's surface. A precisely-oriented stellar body could strike the moon to do this, like a billiard ball colliding with tons of interstellar moon shrapnel instead of dust.

Less counteractive energy could make the Moon change orbit to one with a perigee below the surface of the Earth, close enough to (partially) enter the atmosphere or merely bring it down beneath the applicable Roche limit. These scenarios would be only technically less catastrophic, and whether the Moon fragments from the initially applied force, the stresses of its nearest (non-contact) distance to Earth or actually survives largely intact until there is a more direct physical interaction, the precise degree of the effect might be practically academic.

Cueball explains to Megan that he usually likes it when stories are based on good science. Maybe only bending it a bit to create the story, to expand our ideas of what is possible. But then he goes on to state that he supports giving Roland Emmerich as much money as he wants, to make cool spaceship noises and smash moons into things. In the movie it is only a moon (the Moon, presumably, see the plot below). But in general Roland often uses huge explosions in his movies, something also previously said about other similarly-styled directors like Michael Bay.

Megan sums the situation for Cueball up, stating that he is excited to expand our ideas of how much stuff can explode at once.

In the title text Cueball continues by explaining that while novel ideas and explosions are good, what he really want from a movie is novel ideas about cool explosions. So new ways to explode things, or ideas about exploding more things at once. Or both.

In 1536: The Martian a similar discussion of an upcoming movie is made for The Martian. But in that case it is the scientific accuracy that is the subject, and the lack of huge explosion that makes it hard to believe it could become a big budget movie! It is very rare that Randall makes a movie review like in those two comics.


Spoiler Alert

In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler is convinced she has the key to saving us all - but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper[,] and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman believe her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is. —Centropolis Entertainment, quoted at IMDB


[Cueball and Megan walking to the right]
Megan: Are you excited for Moonfall?
Megan: Or cringing?
Cueball: Well...
[Closeup on Cueball]
Cueball: I like when stories are grounded in good science because it's exciting to expand our ideas of what's possible.
[Zoomed back out to Cueball and Megan walking to the right. Cueball has his palms raised]
Cueball: But I also support giving Roland Emmerich as much money as he wants to make cool spaceship noises and smash moons into things.
Megan: Excited to expand our ideas of how much stuff can explode at once.

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Well, it did fund 8 out of 10 seasons of MythbustersSeebert (talk) 19:11, 29 December 2021 (UTC)

What is "it"? Barmar (talk) 21:58, 29 December 2021 (UTC)
Explosions, probably. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:15, 29 December 2021 (UTC)
Yes, 'novel ideas ABOUT cool explosions' (alt text) Seebert (talk) 14:58, 30 December 2021 (UTC)

This synopsis makes me eager to never ever see this tripe, which the comic failed to achieve. Thank you, explainxkcd, for saving me time and money. 20:03, 29 December 2021 (UTC)

It doesn't sound much different from most other action blockbusters, like the "Terminator" franchise, or "Armageddon". And it will probably be better than the "Transformer" movies. As Cueball and Megan indicate, it's mostly about watching lots of things blow up, not about plausibility. Barmar (talk) 21:57, 29 December 2021 (UTC)
”…only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.” – Wait, what, the moon isn’t cheese?? -- 22:32, 29 December 2021 (UTC)

Only thing less likely than Moon suddenly getting on collision course is that we will be able to prevent the collision. Wait. I see he lowered the bar even more with only THREE people somehow fixing it without help of rest of NASA ... how do they even get to space without help? -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:14, 29 December 2021 (UTC)

"[O]ne astronaut from her past, Brian Harper and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman" is grammatically confusing. That could be either three people (assuming it's an omitted Oxford comma) or one person (an astronaut named Brian Harper who spreads conspiracy theories under the pseudonym "K.C. Houseman"). It needs at least one more comma if "Brian Harper" is supposed to be an appositive 06:06, 30 December 2021 (UTC)
I believe it's a quote. So the grammatical errors are on the movie producers. ---- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
On Wikipedia, now linked from the Moonfall link, it states two astronauts and a conspiracy person --Kynde (talk) 12:42, 30 December 2021 (UTC)
This point is utterly irrelevant to this comic!

To be fair, Shakespeare not writing Shakespeare is NOT the idea of Emmerich, and the idea was so seriously discussed that it has a Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question 09:34, 30 December 2021 (UTC)

Agree I have deleted this and just mentioned three of his most catastrophic films. --Kynde (talk) 12:42, 30 December 2021 (UTC)
Plenty of Emmerich's listed disaster films use stupid ideas other people thought of—he's hardly the first person to have said 2012 would be the End Of the World. But fair enough; I just thought it was an amusing aside. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 20:41, 31 December 2021 (UTC)

I think Ronald is an amateur :-D. The Danish director Lars von Trier managed, in Melancholia to let the Earth hit into a planet large enough that Earth could have been it's moon. Of course his budget was rater smaller so the explosions are not so cool. But the damage was total obliteration, and no rescue team, hence the title matches the film --Kynde (talk) 12:42, 30 December 2021 (UTC)

There was also When Worlds Collide (1951 film) (imagine what Ronald/Bay would have done, with the full power DreamWorks rendering, or similar). Though (as everyone knows) when the Moon leaves orbit it goes away from the Earth at a strangely plot-friendly velocity that lets them both pass many extrastellar worlds (roughly one a week!) and yet still visit and return from them a convenient number of times while they are somehow still in range of their limited spacecraft... 15:33, 30 December 2021 (UTC)

This sounds a bit like the plot of Majora's Mask. --WhiteDragon (talk) 13:50, 30 December 2021 (UTC)

For some reason 2562 is not on here; i thought a bot automatically added new xkcd posts but for some reason 2562 wasn't added and its been a few hours 17:00, 31 December 2021 (UTC)

Moonfall sounds like it should be the sequel to Skyfall. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 02:50, 2 January 2022 (UTC)

Why does the mass of the moon have two leading 0, but is in scientific notation. Shouldn't it just be ^22 instead of ^24