Cashing in a little late on the found footage craze comes Apollo 18, a film that sounds interesting given the conspiracy it bases its story around, NASA sending another craft to the moon in top secret fashion, but the film is extremely boring and far from interesting. What is presented in the trailers is exactly what you see. There is no bigger picture that is revealed in the film; instead it wastes your time and money. Expectations were low for the film, but the end product is actually worse. There’s nothing wrong with loving a film or hating a film, but Apollo 18 is one of those films that doesn’t have a purpose and shouldn’t have been made. These types of films are ones I dislike even more than films I genuinely hate. It just sort of exists and that’s it.
Three astronauts were sent into space, secretly to set up equipment so that we can keep an eye on those evil Russians. The film tries so hard to be authentic, even the IMDB page for the film only features two names that are uncredited. Actors Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen play our two space travelers and both guys give such dry and uneventful performances. They were so forgetful that I fail to remember the characters names. All you need to know is both men think they’re on one mission and end up discovering something else. One of them gets infected, as shown in the trailer and the other just kind of deals with it. Both men spend most of the running time walking around the surface of the moon, sitting in the shuttle contemplating conspiracy theories and sleeping. While this is happening, the third astronaut is orbiting the moon waiting for departure. They’ve lost contact with NASA after setting up the equipment and things begin to go very wrong.
The story plays out EXACTLY like the trailer shows. There isn’t one damn surprise or twist. From the second they land on the moon to the amateurish last ten minutes, Apollo 18 is a predictable bore-fest. I give found footage films the benefit of the doubt because every once and awhile they shock me with a hidden gem like [REC] or Troll Hunter. Even the mainstream manages to successfully release found footage films every so often like The Last Exorcism. Yes, the technique is very gimmicky, but if there is a purpose to shooting it this particular way then by all means do it. Apollo 18 doesn’t benefit at all from this style. It actually takes away from the film. If a talented director were to film this story with haunting imagery and atmospheric music than Apollo 18 could have worked, maybe. But the use of found footage eliminates any sort of musical score or artistic ability. I give director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego credit for authenticity. It really does feel like an edit of found tapes. The set is great, the picture has that sped up, blurry and crappy quality and the actors give off that lifeless and stiff NASA employee feel, but that doesn’t make for a good film.
The only reason the found footage element is present in Apollo 18 is because now they have an excuse for horrible acting and a cheap budget. I’m assuming they constructed the set out of cardboard boxes and old footage from NASA’s previous adventures into space. A good 45% of the film takes place in a small shuttle, so they probably filmed that in one of the five crew member’s backyards in between blogging sessions on various conspiracy theory sites.
My main gripe with Apollo 18 is the lack of purpose. They land on the moon and fiddle around for a while until they notice some malfunctions with their equipment. They wander off the beaten path and discover some big warning signs that scream GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, but instead they snoop around. I think it’s clear in the trailers and promotions for the film that this is all about a conspiracy, so it’s no spoiler to say that NASA knows what’s up while all of this is going down. So instead of trying to make contact with the people that set you up, wouldn’t you want to cut the rope and bail?
They got a buddy floating in orbit that wants to help, but they instead dink around for what seems like forever. The pacing in incredibly slow and uneventful. Nothing happens, at all.
When the aliens or creatures come into play, you only get the glimpses that were presented in the trailers. I won’t give away any more details (or lack thereof) on the actual things, but I will say that they are about as boring as a rock. Neat concept, but horribly executed. The mystery is never explained or even shed light upon. They just show up, cause some trouble and then the film ends without much closure.
I wanted to like Apollo 18 despite all of the release date shuffles and lack of interesting marketing. I love space, films and looking into certain conspiracies. I was willing to turn off logic in exchange for a film that takes advantage of the handheld camera style and delivers on the suspense and curiosity of the unknown space, but Apollo 18 doesn’t provide any of that. It’s as lifeless as space and there really is no point in seeing the film. It’s not an extremely bad movie by any means. The production was probably cheap and it accomplished the feeling of it being real footage, but there is just nothing beating at its core. The story doesn’t go anywhere, the acting is passable and the whole film just sort of drags its feet until the very end.
Apollo 18 – 6/10