Story: Dugu Yue (Shen Teng) was mediocre in everything he did in his life which had always been his goal. Nevertheless, he is still good enough to work as a maintenance worker on a lunar mission. 300 people are stationed on the moon in order to launch gigantic rockets at an asteroid that is expected to hit Earth in the near future. The "UNMS Project" also plans to intercept debris from the deflected asteroid with the moon itself. The mission seems to be successful, but now the entire time Dugu is busy thinking about how he can confess his love to Commander Ma Lanxing (Ma Li). It distracts him so such that he does not even notice how the entire lunar station is put under alarm because the debris will hit the moon earlier than expected. The lunar station is evacuated, 299 people get into their rockets and manage to leave the moon in time. Dugu is the only one left behind. A short time later, he sees how the asteroid, that they thought had been deflected, hits Earth and the planet is shrouded in a gigantic cloud of ash. Dugu believes he is the only survivor of the human race, but in fact his radio contact has just broken off and the UNMS members can still follow his life on the lunar station very closely via the various cameras. Dugu is even presented as a hero to the survivors on Earth and broadcasted in a live stream in order to give them hope. However, they didn't expect Dugu to spend most of his time fighting with, or rather being beaten up by, a kangaroo which was left behind by researchers. Nevertheless, the UNMS members somehow have to bring Dugu back to Earth, even though for the time being, he is all on his own on the moon...
Review: Chinese humor can certainly bring out some cultural barriers and mostly can be described as slapstick comedy. Despite that, I don't understand why "Moon Man" didn't get a little more international exposure. Not only does the humor mostly hit the mark, but when it comes to characters and storyline, we also get a science fiction movie that completely outshines all previous blockbusters like "The Wandering Earth 2" or "Shanghai Fortress". In addition, it does a great job in terms of special effects, too. "Moon Man" is an emotional rollercoaster ride, in which new problems constantly arise and then have to be solved in a witty manner. Moreover, we get quirky but lovable protagonists and a lot of suspense.
The sci-fi comedy starts with a definite focus on humor. A lot of things are extremely absurd, but in a positive way. While most sci-fi flicks have strange plot holes in the script that make absolutely no sense, "Moon Man" uses them for its story and, at the same time, makes fun of them. This somehow makes the movie more believable than a lot of serious sci-fi blockbusters. When Dugu Yue is then stuck alone on the moon, you naturally feel reminded of "Castaway" ("Castaway on the Moon" would have been a more obvious title, but that was already taken by the Korean movie from 2009), but also of "The Martian". Only that everything is a bit more odd here starting with the kangaroo, which is Yue's only companion. The two constantly butt heads with each other and some kind of love-hate relationship develops, which eventually changes so that the movie later sometimes feels like a buddy movie. But Yue's love for Ma is also used for a joke every now and then. After all, he doesn't know that his life is being followed on Earth (also by Ma herself). The fact that "Moon Man" didn't go down the road of creating humor by introducing cringeworthy situations is particularly impressive.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the humor works well most of the time. Even in dramatic moments (apart from the finale) the tension is relieved by unexpected laughs. That's because the comedy troupe Ma Hua FunAge, to which the two main actors belong, are responsible for the movie. In addition, the plot offers a slightly different love story, which is both romantic and funny because of its one-sidedness (?). Generally, it's surprising how much the movie manages to involve you emotionally, even though Dugu Yue is not only separated from his love interest, but also from all other human beings. The dramatic moments are also very effective and even during the finale they are less cheesy than you would have expected. Nevertheless, it is exactly that very finale that has to be addressed briefly as a point of criticism. The humor clearly fades into the background here and makes room for some tears. Admittedly, this is quite effective, but you quickly forget that "Moon Man" is supposed to be a comedy.
Maybe that's exactly where you can make out the source material. Because the story is based on the Korean webtoon "Moon You" by Jo Seok, and the South Koreans are well-known for letting tears do the talking towards the end. At the same time, the original material is also an explanation for the numerous events, problems and twists and turns we get. There is a real up and down between hope and despair. As mentioned before, the story is always surprisingly innovative. What is impressive is that the events do not feel episodic either. However, you get the feeling that the movie is a bit too long with its running time of two hours. The emotional focus towards the end also leaves a little bit of a bad aftertaste, even though a Chinese version of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" actually manages to be both captivating and somehow absurd/funny in the right moment.
The special effects are another unexpected plus. You always feel like being on the moon while some of the action scenes also have something comic-like with a self-ironic touch. It somehow reminds you a little bit of "Kung Fu Hustle". Even the kangaroo, which could have turned into a cheap mascot, is convincing and develops its own personality, making it one of the main reasons why Yue doesn't go insane with his loneliness. Since the humor works most of the time, the characters are endearing and the events are incessantly exciting, "Moon Man" is an outstanding movie that easily trumps previous sci-fi productions from China. The ending may include a bit too much drama, but on its own it is also appealing. In my book, "Moon Man" even deserves some bonus points for taking familiar elements and creating something original with it, but without sacrificing the entertainment factor.