DVD REVIEW: Apollo 18

In December 1974, the crew of the cancelled Apollo 18 mission is informed that it will now proceed as a top secret Department of Defense (DoD) mission disguised as a satellite launch. Commander Nathan Walker, Lieutenant Colonel John Grey, and Captain Ben Anderson are launched toward the Moon to place detectors to alert the United States of any impending ICBM attacks from the USSR.

 

Ok, I’m going to start by admitting that this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. With the beauty of hindsight, we can probably blame the trailer for that, which Montoc & I lambasted in The Trailer Trash Two some months. That trailer (in my opinion) set the film up as “Three Men In A Space-Boat”, with the faintest hint of space-alien possession causing one (or two) to kill the other(s). With that thin premise, one wondered how they could string a film out for 90 minutes.

So, to the film. As per my recent review of ‘Chronicle’, if you’re not a fan of “handy-cam” films, then you’re cooking in the wrong kitchen. That said, the film does get around some of the ‘shaky-cam’ issue in satisfactory ways, making it easier on the eye. Before the film begins, there is a text sequence citing this as previously unseen video, hidden in Fort Knox or the Batcave or wherever, now being released after ‘x’ many years. It then starts off with stock footage: studio interviews with the astronauts, and standard NASA PR footage of the pre-launch build-up. This is interwoven with 8mm home movie filming of team / family BBQs, establishing the three astronauts as being human, having children etc, i.e. the whole empathy thing. Then we go back to more stock footage of the launch and journey to the moon (if you’re of a certain age, you probably remember this first time round i.e. Apollo 17!!)

Then we get to the crux of the movie, and how they get around ‘shaky-cam’. The interior of the space capsule has fitted fixed-point CCTV, so you can move from compartment to compartment quite smoothly. There are also exterior cameras, which are fixed. In addition, the crew do have a handy-cam, but as they are in zero-gravity, the filming tracks quite smoothly, which makes for a generally, very pleasant viewing experience. Once on the moon, flag firmly planted in the ground, they go off exploring. (I probably should also remind you that as per standard Apollo configuration, there are two astronauts in the lunar module which land on the surface, and the unlucky JAFO who gets to travels all the way there, but remains stuck orbiting the moon in the command module). Whilst out exploring, they discover fresh footprints, which are not theirs – and that’s when the fun starts. They are not alone, and no, it’s not Transformers either. At this point, the film remains pretty good in its technique. I was expecting a very claustrophobic film, but with all the activity on the moon’s surface, the action is not just confined to the lunar module. Also, because the cameras are fitted to the spacesuits, the filming is not subject to too much ‘shaky-cam’.

As many films like ‘Moon’ have proved, you can make an entertaining moving with the minimum of characters. However, from it’s very premise, this film is very flawed. For example, keeping a manned space mission a secret back in the 70s would have been nigh on impossible, and I constantly kept thinking of that. And despite the best efforts in playing the empathy card, you just don’t invest in these characters, as from the off, their fates seem sealed. The filming is all too often dark, and this does get weary. The jerky editing / use of time-lapse can also be really irritating at times.

GS Rating: 2.5/5

 

Actors: Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Ali Liebert, Andrew Airlie & Lloyd Owen
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Certificate: 15 years and over
Year: 2011
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Duration: 1 hour and 26 minutes (approx)

Source: Apollo 18
GS Reporter: Silver Fox

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One comment

  1. I liked it more than you guys did. It’s a straight-up horror movie and it does a pretty effective job at the end of the day. The trailers did not help it at all. My biggest issue was the lack of connection to the characters. The home videos in the beginning didn’t help that nor did the incredibly short duration (based on the counter on Blu-ray player, I’m almost positive the film comes in well under 90 minutes, despite what Metacritic claims, which i just absurd). While shaky cam doesn’t bother me if I can tell what’s going on, like Blair Witch, the shaky cam effect gets very dizzying and at times obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not magnificent but if I reviewed it on my site I’d give it a 68/100.

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