HBO Max’s ‘Moonshot’ Is So, So Bad, but Lana Condor Is Amazing in It

In the growing list of moon-related releases 2022 has to offer (moonfall, Moon Knight, etc.), HBO Max has released the worst of the bunch. It is Moonshota dreary rom-com that goes heavy on the tropes and light on the chemistry, blending sci-fi with romance as two starstruck youngsters fall in love on the way to Mars. Moonshot is so, so bad, but it excels in just one aspect: Lana Condor is cast as the female lead.

The premise for Moonshot is promising. Two lovebirds follow their hearts all the way to Mars, where their significant others currently reside. When Sophie (Condor) purchases a million-dollar ticket to Mars, Walt (Cole Sprouse) acts as a stowaway, pretending to be her boyfriend as they fly across the universe. What is more unbelievable than this twentysomething purchasing a million-dollar Mars ticket is the chemistry we are meant to believe Walt and Sophie share. They have none.

Still, the film is worth watching for Condor alone. Four years ago, the actress starred in the smash hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix. Condor’s Lara-Jean Covey was a revelation: She decorated all of her notebooks with Curlz font penmanship, prepared cookies as if she were a contestant on The Great British Baking Show, and yearned for scrappy high school boys like a Jane Austen character. For high school girls, she was relatable, but for the rest of the world, she was sweet and admirable.

Basically, she was the kind of actress you’d want to cast in 500 rom-coms immediately after the first one wrapped. Right after To All the Boys debuted on Netflix, fans (both new and of the book) flocked to the movie, celebrating it all over social media. But here’s the thing: unlike Bridgerton Season 1, in which a primarily female audience fawned over Regé-Jean Page, young women weren’t just excited about the hunky male lead. They liked Lara Jean, too.

Since To All the Boys debuted, though, that hype hasn’t been equally distributed to the stars. Noah Centineo, who played dopey love interest Peter Kavinsky, has gone on to star in two more Netflix rom-coms, earn a major part in Charlie’s Angelssnag a superhero role in DC’s black adam alongside The Rock, and attach himself to a handful of upcoming Netflix projects.

Lana Condor, on the other hand, starred in cult hit Alita: Battle Angel—and that’s about it. Moonshot is her first foray back into rom-coms, a massive oversight by Netflix (and the rest of Hollywood, really) after she proved her worth in mere minutes back in 2018 with the beginning of the first To All the Boys.

Nevertheless, she’s back and she’s brilliant. Give this woman an Oscar for pretending to be in love with Walt, a brooding wannabe Mars cadet who, let’s face it, should’ve stayed in Riverdale. The chemistry is one-sided. Condor carries the “rom” side of the entire movie, juggling her half of the “com” along with it.

It’s a hard task, especially since Moonshot completely hollow out the female lead. Sophie’s main drive is her boyfriend and the life he will provide for her. That’s it. Granted, it’s a trope her To All the Boys character falls victim to, and it’s one she can play believably (gel pens hit loose leaf once more to map out her “dream life”). But here there’s no resolution.

Still, with Condor’s charisma and endearing dorkiness, sometimes, it’s just fun to be along for the ride, even if the destination is doomed.

Perhaps the one thing Moonshot does right (other than cast Condor) is it actually ages its leads properly.

Centineo—as well as a flurry of other baby-faced adult stars like Jacob Elordi, Asa Butterfield, Nicola Coughlan, and even Cole Sprouse in Riverdale—has been locked into teenage roles even though he’s now 25, and probably will be for the next four decades. This is not the case for Condor and her Moonshot. Before the film’s release, Condor opened up about being excited to play a character that’s “actually my age” since “the past three, four years I’ve been playing much younger characters.”

The horrifying thing now is to think about what effect this movie might have on Condor’s career. It is a movie so dreadfully bad (not even “so bad it’s good,” a category many of Centineo’s rom-coms fall into) that it is near impossible to look past all of the unfunny jokes, trite storylines, and hollowed-out characters and see Condor’s delightful rom-com wit shining away. But every rom-com legend has at least one flop: larry crowne? Serious Moonlight? All greats fallter.

So, a plea to all rom-com casting directors: Put Lana Condor in your film! Hell, write an entire movie for her snarky charm. She has such great potential, even in Moonshot. Give the woman some glittery gel pens and a notebook. Surely there are more crushes to be had, enemies to become lovers, and soulmates to be found—and they might actually be well-written, too.


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