By: The Cinephiliac (Five Beers) -
Apollo 18 would like for you to believe that the events that took place in the film were real, whether you believe that notion through its documentary style of directing and editing or by the films use of an epilogue to disclose the conclusion of the U.S.’s supposed “last trip” to the moon. If you let Director Gonzalez Lopez-Gallego tell it, the cancelled U.S. space mission for Apollo 18 actually happened in 1974 when three astronauts, Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and John Grey (Ryan Robbins) all boarded Apollo 18 to go to the Moon to collect moon rocks and further space exploration.
However, once the trio land on the moon they start to discover that something is amiss as their communication with the base is interrupted and they discover the dead body and abandoned, bloody spacecraft of a Soviet astronaut. The trio must find a way to escape the dangers of the moon as they quickly realize they are on their own and in space no one can hear your scream. The film even ends with a link inviting viewers to learn the truth of the mission, a truth that if you believe I’d say it’s safe to assume you also believe the Holocaust was a hoax, 9/11 was an inside job and Santa Claus vacations inFloridaduring the summer.
Wait you mean he actually does? Well then, forgive me Apollo 18
Initially Apollo 18’s attention to detail through its aesthetics yields its most pleasing moments. The film is rough and gritty looking as much of it emulates the grainy and authentic appearance of actual space footage from the late 60s and early 70s. Much of Apollo 18 seems to have been shot on 16mm film while footage from real life space missions are edited into the film making the first half of Apollo 18 seem realistic and genuine. Much like real found footage, the film often jumps and has momentary lapsed cuts with certain scenes being cut in the middle of its action to further the effect.
The film’s look of gritty and unstable aesthetics, however, is cool for about 10 minutes and then becomes annoyingly inconsistent. Because the film is comprised of “found footage” the images are revealed to come from a handheld 16mm camera possessed by Anderson and Walker, cameras inside of their lunar module, on their lunar rover, and a few other random and unexplained cameras on random and unexplained objects. Audiences can’t help but wonder who is responsible for capturing certain parts of the film as well as how were close ups and moving shots captured when the characters themselves aren’t the ones filming.
Who’s filming when he puts the camera down? Director Gonzalez Lopez-Gallego doesn’t know either.
Apart from the inconsistent style of filming, Apollo 18’s biggest flaw is its underdeveloped story and characters. I give the film kudos for attempting to create empathy for the main characters by givingAnderson a reason to fight to make it back to Earth to see his wife and son, but screenplay writer Brian Miller is obviously unaware that merely mentioning a wife and son doesn’t make audiences sad that a character won’t get to see them. The lines are so constructed and delivered so theatrically that if you were to close your eyes you can actually see the table reading the actors were involved in during pre-production. The characters also react flatly to their fate at times and don’t portray the fear and uncertainty needed for audiences to believe and care about the danger of their situation.
About a 3rd of the way into the film I realized that Apollo 18 was still going on as I had gotten lost in my own train of thought debating what I was going to each for lunch. It was between a tasty green chicken curry complete with green beans and bamboo shoots from a Thai restaurant or cheap mall chicken teriyaki. Either way both dishes would have been enough to eat for lunch while having enough left over for dinner, but the dilemma was whether I was willing to spend $8 on the always amazing green curry or just deal with spending $5 on the slightly above average teriyaki. The mental debate over food wasn’t because I was hungry, for at the time of watching the film I wasn’t, the debate happened because I found myself so bored and uninterested with was going on screen that food was far more interesting to think about. Yes, action takes place throughout Apollo 18 but it’s spread out and minimal while the dialogue and situations taking place between the action is lackluster and doesn’t demand attention.
But seriously folks, Tin Drum’s Green Curry is phenomenal.
I can deal with a film being a mock documentary and even imitating found footage but what I can’t deal with is crackpot conspiracies being forced down my throat—and this is coming from a person who lives by conspiracies. The film ends rather smugly updating viewers on the fate of the three men as well as the fate of moon rocks and samples that were retrieved by previous Apollo missions. Apollo 18 ends by telling viewers to visit lunartruth.org to discover what really happened with the Apollo missions and the rocks retrieved from moon exploration
Apollo 18 is one part Paranormal Activity, one part Blair Witch Project, and two parts shit. It’s a film that likes the smell of its own farts and wants others to enjoy the smell as well no matter how bad it is. It’s not an awful film as there are some great jump scenes and impressive moments, but its denial of being a fictional film and its lack of strength in story and character development makes me wish this film was put on a space ship and deserted in the farthest crater of the moon.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time you hear the phrase “What the hell?”
Take a drink: every time you laugh at the “aliens”
Take a drink: whenever you could have sworn you’ve seen this narrative in another film.