The tagline for the ‘found-footage’ space thriller Apollo 18 is “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.” Hopefully Hollywood will realize there’s a reason it should never make another found-footage thriller. Or at least one as silly as Apollo 18.
After The Blair Witch Project scared the bejeezus out of us way back in 1999, we knew it would only be a matter of time before other filmmakers saw the goldmine and began producing their own similarly-themed projects. Calling Apollo 18 ‘Blair Witch on the moon’ is an easy bit of labeling, but it’s not even close to the reality.
Everything that Blair Witch had going for it (incredible suspense, frightening realism, a cohesive and interesting story) has been jettisoned by the folks behind Apollo 18.
But the biggest issue may in fact be that you’ll find yourself (more than a handful of times) wondering how the footage that was spliced together for Apollo 18 was even found at all. Since that question is never addressed, the whole movie is undermined early on and then cemented with the final shots. (Don’t worry. No spoilers.)
The general idea is that the Department of Defense okayed and then orchestrated a secret (though how you launch a Saturn V rocket without people noticing is beyond me) mission that sent astronauts back to the moon in 1974. Our heroes were told it was to set up missile detection systems, but within a few hours of landing, the astronauts begin to slowly find out why they were really sent.
‘Slowly’ being the key word in that sentence.
Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, tackling his first English-language feature, spends the better part of a half-hour ramping things up with footage of the astronauts hanging at a backyard barbeque, then getting fitted in their spacesuits, then lifting off, then approaching the moon, then landing, then chatting in the lunar lander, then– well, you get the idea.
The suspense (never mind the non-existent terror) is at such a low level you may feel like you’re watching a choppily-edited NASA documentary.
Things get a little hairy once the ‘creatures’ start going bump in the night, but by the time the mayhem really starts escalating, Apollo 18, well… ends.
Speaking of NASA, the agency went out of its way to insist that it in no way endorses or verifies the claims made in Apollo 18. It’s a safe bet that they did that not to avoid confusion but to disavow any participation in this clunker.