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Movie Review Apollo 18

Movie Review Apollo 18

The Right Stuff meets Paranormal Activity

Apollo 18 makes a fine addition to the sub-genre.

Apollo 18 Movie Poster

A Conspiracy Theory backed by found footage

By now we should be fine with watching mockumenatries, where archived/found footage is edited into a retelling of mysterious events. Blair Witch [1999] pioneered the style and movies like Paranormal Activity [2007],  Cloverfield [2008] and Chronicle build on that storytelling technique. Here we go again.

The ‘found footage’ slant requires a few concessions to fully work. Firstly, the film must convince us it was recorded or dated correctly and that usually involves a convincing level of degradation. Secondly, the film must have some technical issues, like recording drops or even interference and damage to the camera so that we can never get any reliable evidence of the supernatural or alien premise put forth until late in the movie. And last, we need our characters trapped or hopelessly confined in an area so that all the events occur in a relatively short amount of time. Apollo 18 gives us two barriers to escape; the tight and claustrophobic confines of their lunar module and the fact that they are far from Earth and any possible help.

All the themes are well done here in Apollo 18. We have the grainy home footage of the main characters last supper on earth, which is about as American as you can get in a backyard barbeque. This is my first time watching a film directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and he does a fine job in capturing that grainy, choppy NASA 60s moon-feed look.

Horror movies tend to give us one central point of danger and Apollo 18 ups the ante by adding several, just like Jurassic Park, where- even their land rover became a danger at one point. We have a lack of oxygen, Russian cosmonauts and the obstacles to getting home- all on top of the main mysterious danger. For me, this pushes Apollo 18 ahead of its peers. It’s managed to do what the best sci fi does, and that is; to rise above the techno-toys and tell a compelling story.

At this point I must give a head nod to another film landing in this arena that is also better than the sum of its parts. The Fourth Kind [2009] purposely mixed in supposed real found footage with filmed recreations and even starts with a disclaimer by Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil, Stone, Ultraviolet etc) that is supposed to add more credibility. An extra layer is added to Apollo 18 by embracing the conspiracy theories surrounding the truthfulness of the moon landings. The film even ends with a link to a site called http://www.Lunartruth.org that has more information about secret NASA doings and footage that shows plenty of mysterious activity in space.

Overall, I do admit I was drawn in by the sci fi aspect of Apollo 18. As someone with a high interest, I felt it was worth the risk to sit through Apollo 18. I’m glad I did. If you like the movie-making approach of having you question the factual-ness and authenticity of what you are watching, Apollo 18 makes a fine addition to the sub-genre. Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen do fine jobs portraying astronauts Ben Anderson and Nate Walker. Definitely worth renting.

My final thought about mockumentaries: I would like someone create a film centered on an expert watching and analyzing this kind of footage and rewinding, magnifying and examining the recording. In the case of Apollo 18, what would be the sense of having glimpses of aliens whirl by but spend time with the astronaut’s home movies? For film-making it’s a plot device to create a connection with the main characters. From a scientific perspective, it makes no sense. We would just start with the relevant parts of the mission. That’s one of the small problems with getting full immersion. Apollo 18 is a solid movie. I’m no movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.

  1. April 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Excellent. I agree.

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