If the moon isn't what we think it is, then what is it? The director breaks down the trailer for his disaster movie with EW.
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Moonfall trailer

It might be the oldest warning of disaster in the book: "The sky is falling!" Roland Emmerich is a director that knows a thing or two about disasters, having previously depicted widespread destruction at the hands of climate change (The Day After Tomorrow), alien invasion (Independence Day), and doomsday prophecy (2012). With his latest film, Moonfall, Emmerich tries out a different kind of apocalypse: What if the moon was falling from the sky? On top of that, what if the moon was actually home to a living creature of unknown power and malevolence?

The latest trailer for Moonfall went public on Thursday, but EW got an exclusive interview with Emmerich breaking down the highlights. Check out his insights and teases below.

Moonfall trailer
John Bradley in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

Free bagels

The first character to appear in the new Moonfall trailer is K.C. Houseman (Game of Thrones' John Bradley). Despite his humble background, Houseman might be the only person who understands what's going on with the moon.

"He pretends to be a janitor in a university and breaks into a professor's office and uses his password," Emmerich explains. "That links him with this observatory in Chile, and he gets information from that. Because of that, he has this shocking discovery that the moon is actually falling to Earth."

As for who Houseman is addressing in the clip about an emergency meeting with "free bagels," Emmerich notes that he is part of a group of people "who believe that the moon is a megastructure." What's a megastructure, you ask? More on that in a second...

Moonfall trailer
Patrick Wilson in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

The right stuff

Houseman may have access to secret scientific information, but to get to the moon and avert disaster, he's going to need help from some real astronauts. Enter Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), who admits in the trailer that he and NASA "aren't on speaking terms anymore" following a traumatic incident in outer space.

"He encountered something which he found extremely unique and interesting, and nobody believed him at NASA," Emmerich says. "Which is understandable because NASA knows that the moon is not what we think it is. So he ends up in a lawsuit with NASA because he's a guy who doesn't back down."

Moonfall trailer
People are not happy about the lunar disaster in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

Who built the moon?

Emmerich says he first came up with the concept for Moonfall when he read Who Built the Moon? by Christopher Knight and Alan Butler. That relatively obscure book was the first time the director encountered "the idea that maybe the moon is not what we think it is, that it's built rather than natural." Could it actually be a megastructure akin to the Dyson sphere at the center of N.K. Jemisin's comic Far Sector?

"Some people believe that megastructures are a built shell around a star," Emmerich says. "Enormous, enormous structures that are more or less like a cage around a captured star."

Moonfall trailer
Donald Sutherland in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

Cover-up

What did NASA know about the moon, and when did they know about it? That's what senior NASA official Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry) would like to know. In Moonfall, fictional NASA officials like Holdenfield (Donald Sutherland) have been keeping secrets about the moon for decades.

"NASA is hiding stuff on a very high level because even the second-in-command doesn't know about it," Emmerich says. "It started with Apollo 11, where there was this two-minute radio silence. During that time, they saw light emanating from the moon's surface. That's when they first realized the moon was hollow."

Nevertheless, real-life NASA was happy to help with the production of Moonfall, according to Emmerich.

Moonfall trailer
Halle Berry in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

Who run the moon?

Berry's character didn't ask to be the person responsible for ensuring the moon doesn't crash into the Earth, but she still steps up to the plate.

"The director of NASA just leaves, and she pretty much gets the weight of the world on her shoulders," Emmerich says of Berry. "She has the idea to use a disgraced astronaut who has landed a shuttle without electronics, and she has the idea to use a Chinese moon lander to fly up there and try to fix whatever's wrong. They're all her ideas."

Moonfall trailer
The moon causes all kinds of gravity disruptions in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

Gravity waves

We all know that the moon's gravity generates tides on Earth, and in the Moonfall trailer, we get a glimpse at the massive tidal waves created by the lunar body falling towards us.

"It's even worse because there's something inside the moon that's hiding its own gravity," Emmerich teases. "So it gets really crazy."

Moonfall trailer
'Moonfall' becomes a race against time to save both Earth and the moon from destruction.
| Credit: Lionsgate

Race against time

Emmerich likes each of his disaster movies to feel different from the others.

"2012 was about trying to revive the concept of Noah's Ark, and The Day After Tomorrow was about climate change. I'm always trying to mix it up," Emmerich explains. "On the one hand, this is a disaster movie, but it's also a space movie; it's about space exploration and doing crazy things like flying inside the moon. On the other hand, on Earth, their kids are getting into serious trouble. It's the best of both worlds."

As Moonfall reaches its epic climax, its cast is split into two groups: One going up into space to solve whatever's wrong with the moon, and one just trying to survive the unfolding disaster on Earth.

Moonfall trailer
Something living is inside the moon in 'Moonfall.'
| Credit: Lionsgate

It's alive!

If the moon is indeed a megastructure in Moonfall, then what is inside it? This scary swarm, for one!

"It was the most challenging part of the visual effects because no one really knows how it would look, so we had to develop it," Emmerich says. "It took a while, but in the end, I'm very happy with it. It looks like a nano swarm artificial intelligence."

Moonfall crashes into theaters Feb. 4.

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