The protagonist of “Moonshot,” college senior Walt (Cole Sprouse), is an adventurous dreamer bound by his extraordinary mediocrity. In many ways, “Moonshot” resembles the averageness of its main character, yet both are able to achieve some success during their journey through space.
Set in a future where Mars begins to be inhabited, “Moonshot” follows Walt and Sophie (Lana Condor), a fellow college student, on their mission to get to the Red Planet for love. Sophie’s long-term boyfriend, Calvin (Mason Gooding), has extended his stay on Mars for work, and Walt ventures into space to pursue Ginny (Emily Rudd), a girl he knew for one day on Earth. When Walt boards the spaceship as a stowaway, he joins forces with Sophie and pretends to be Calvin for the duration of the 35-day trip, forcing the two to reevaluate their relationships, priorities and dreams.
“Moonshot” deserves praise for its execution of ambitious world building. The future depicted in the film is a fantastic balance of the familiar and imaginative. The technological advancements shown feel feasible — an effect few futuristic worlds are able to achieve — and are, as a result, incredibly exciting. “Moonshot” presents a future that viewers can reasonably anticipate for humankind, and there is something interesting to observe about the carefully crafted world in just about every scene.
The film also maintains a pleasant color palette throughout its entirety, making for a visually stimulating viewing experience. The colorful lighting and color grading also help to make the world feel bright and new. Though this doesn’t have a huge effect on the film overall, it’s a thoughtful creative decision that warrants recognition.
The writing in “Moonshot” is a mixed bag. The dialogue isn’t anything too remarkable, and most of the conversations between characters strike a fitting balance between being realistic and humorous. The film’s humor sticks out — but not always in a good way. Some of the comedy is unexpectedly brilliant, but most of it is repetitive rom-com banter. There are a couple strangely lewd jokes, including a discussion between Walt and Sophie about designating “personal intimacy” time in their shared room and Walt joking about sleeping with the captain of the spaceship. Nothing is egregious, but there are definitely a few humorous moments that don’t land so well.
Though neither role is very demanding, Sprouse and Condor deliver solid performances and consistently stay true to character. Both do a fantastic job of not overacting — an underappreciated gift in rom-coms, which can easily suffer from being too corny.
The film’s narrative is satisfactory but not spectacular. In typical rom-com fashion, two young people struggling with their current relationships find what they’re looking for in one another instead — only, in space. Although the setting of “Moonshot” makes the film somewhat interesting, the story itself is far from audacious. It’s a simple, feel-good premise, but its biggest shortcoming is the inability to make the eventual union of its main characters moving and reasonable.
Walt and Sophie are likable characters on their own, but given the little chemistry between them, viewers don’t care when they graduate from their platonic relationship to a romantic one. However, the most frustrating part about their happy ending is the fact that Walt turns away from his lifelong dream of space exploration to be with Sophie. Though the gesture is romantic, it is much too grandiose and nonsensical to be appropriate. The story is wrapped up nicely with a bow at the end, but its contents are hastily thrown together.
Though far from an otherworldly story, “Moonshot” is a cheery glimpse into another world that offers a decent cinematic escape.