Apollo 18

Movie Information

The Story: Top-secret footage of the moon mission no one ever heard of. The Lowdown: Drab, dreadful and dull entry in the dismal "found footage" sub-genre.
Score:

Genre: Conspiracy Sci-Fi Found Footage Rubbish
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
Rated: PG-13

What positive is there to be said about the experience of sitting through Apollo 18? Well, let’s see. For a change, my wife decided she wanted to go with me—and she got a nice nap out of the deal. The seats at The Carolina are comfortable, and the theater has fountain Cheerwine. Two men with two small children and an unsilenced cell phone made a noisy entrance five minutes into the movie, and the quartet just had to sit behind us and continue to be noisy. The distraction was not entirely unwelcome, however, in light of the crapfest on the screen. OK, let’s be upfront about this: I think all “found footage” movies are rubbish. I’ll grant a marginal exception to The Last Exorcism (2010), which still would have been better without this lazy gimmick designed to disguise the utter lack of filmmaking skill involved. In short, I am not the audience for this stuff.

What we have here is Conspiracy Theory 101 all Blair-Witched-up. The movie supposedly consists of a bunch of footage that’s been pieced together from the moon mission no one knows about and which NASA denies ever happened: The titular Apollo 18. It’s not exactly clear how some subversive outfit got ahold of this footage, but then it’s not clear how NASA ever got their hands on all this supposedly 16mm footage that appears to have been shot with Super 8mm cameras. I mean, in light of the way this nonsense ends, they must have sent an Apollo 19 up later to look for it—and even that doesn’t make sense if you stop to think about the ending. Of course, if you’re smart you’ll never think about the ending, because you won’t see any of this. Simply—there’s no way this footage could exist. (It’s not even worth getting into the fact that the moon as depicted in this haphazard mess seems to have Earth’s gravity.)

The idea is that two astronauts, Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), go to the moon to gather some more of those rock samples—as if we didn’t have enough already. Ah, but this is a ruse by the Evil Government, and it all involves the Cold War, Russian cosmonauts, and—spoiler alert!—some inhospitable rocks that transform into some kind of spider things. (Are spiders the easiest thing to make with CGI?). And that’s about it—except that it goes on and on in increasing mind-numbing tedium. I turned my phone on twice to check the time in the hope that it must be nearly over. I was gravely discouraged on both occasions. The claim is that it’s only 88 minutes, but it seems much longer.

Apollo 18 isn’t even very good at making “period” footage or coming up with any realistic claims about the equipment they’re using. There’s some jabber about several thousand feet of Kodachrome on rolls, but the cameras completely put the lie to this claim—which doesn’t stop the filmmakers from festooning the footage with phony outbursts of light-struck film, dubious scratches and lab marks that wouldn’t exist. Doubtless, the film will find favor with wanna-be filmmakers in search of a short-cut to something they can make without much technical skill. It may also please those who think that a film that didn’t cost much and eschews professional polish is somehow magically more worthwhile than one that did cost something and took skill to produce. Anyone else would be better off seeing anything else ever committed to film. Rated PG-13 for no stated reason, but presumably for scary images and some naughty words.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “Apollo 18

  1. Jim Donato

    Actually, spiders are the easiest living thing to model in 3D! Arachnids are simple collections of the polygonal forms built into each 3D app and, unless you’re talking tarantulas, no complex texture maps are necessary to generate 3D spiders. The further you get from mammals, the further you get from the “uncanny valley” that causes simulated life forms to look “off.” A fact lost on Robert Zemeckis.

  2. Xanadon't

    Had the second half of The Last Exorcism lived up to the strengths of the first (and an R rating may have helped a bit too) I would agree with your “marginal exception”. As it stands though, I thought Troll Hunter was a decidedly better film and movie-watching experience.

    Makes me wonder though, have you not seen [REC]?
    Understanding you to be a horror fan I find it unlikely (unless the remake put you off the idea altogether). I was lucky enough (at least from what I’ve heard) to avoid Quarantine and go straight to the original. And for me the film truly works, in addition to being surprisingly scary and featuring one of the most creepy and unnerving payoffs in recent memory.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Actually, spiders are the easiest living thing to model in 3D!

    Ah ha!

    A fact lost on Robert Zemeckis.

    As, I fear, are so many things.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Had the second half of The Last Exorcism lived up to the strengths of the first (and an R rating may have helped a bit too) I would agree with your “marginal exception”.

    It’s not so much the second half that bothers me. It’s the ending — and I think the ending doesn’t work precisely because of the whole found footage schtick limiting what could be done and how.

    As it stands though, I thought Troll Hunter was a decidedly better film and movie-watching experience.

    It was pointed out to me that Troll Hunter was found footage this afternoon. In all honesty, it was so much better than everything else I’ve seen in this form that I forgot it was.

    Makes me wonder though, have you not seen [REC]? Understanding you to be a horror fan I find it unlikely (unless the remake put you off the idea altogether).

    You answered that one in your parenthetical!

  5. Ken Hanke

    Cheerwine on the fountain? MMMMMMMMMMMM!

    Also Sundrop — not quite in the same unique league, but still uncommon.

  6. Apparently, NASA was compelled to put out a press release clarifying that this film was not actually made up of real documentary footage.

    Well, I’m glad they cleared that up.

  7. Sean R. Moorhead

    Are the spiders here half as entertaining as the one in Korda’s Thief of Bagdad? Or the one in Walsh’s Thief of Bagdad, for that matter?

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