REVIEW: Apollo 18

WARNING: Spoilers


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Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon. Released in 2011, Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s Apollo 18 was probably one of the more ambitious found footage movies to have come along in the recent craze of such films taking a unique twist on the whole moon landing conspiracy thing to include extra terrestrial creatures.

Firstly, this is a beautifully made movie and the moon scenes probably haven’t done much to dissuade the conspiracy theorists who believe the whole thing was a hoax filmed in Area 51 or something. A lot of the footage really feels like it could have been a real moon mission and Lopez-Gallego’s team should be justifiably proud of that. This is probably one of the more claustrophobic movies I have ever seen and at times you really feel like you are in the vacuum of the lunar surface. Being something of a space nut myself one of the most thrilling aspects of this movie was seeing the Soviet lander. Again it was beautifully recreated and was a superb touch to the story especially with the two different footprints scene.

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What I didn’t like however was the sheer predictability of the story. The scene in the crater with the camera flash and the dead cosmonaut was a prime example of this. Also I didn’t think the creatures were particularly scary although I will admit the idea that something can disguise itself as a perfect rock one minute then be a giant crab thing next is a little unsettling. The fear factor wasn’t there and instead the movie is more about the survival aspect of these two men trapped on the moon. That was really gripping and I think could have made a movie plot in itself. The slow pacing will test even the most hardcore fan of the found footage genre who is used to it by now with films like Paranormal Activity. While I liked the inclusion of the Soviet lander it’s use in the final scene was questionable. How could they be sure it was going to be able to dock successfully with the Apollo service module in orbit? Were they planning on spacewalking or something? It was poorly conceived and poorly executed.

On the whole this is an enjoyable movie for about 90% of the time but is wrapped up badly in my opinion. To be honest though I think the film’s biggest problem is the limits of the found footage genre in this context. There is a LOT of footage here that covers almost everything that happens. Now I know this is true of these types of films but the key to such film’s success is the ability to believe that this footage could have been recorded. In this film I just didn’t believe it. The Moon is such a unique setting that to get this kind of footage suspends belief so far off the scale that it doesn’t work. I firmly believe this film would have been no better nor worse had it not been made in this way and instead made in a more traditional format.

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I was recently speaking to Crumb Budget Productions on their review of another found footage movie Willow Creek and we discussed how the found footage format has a lot of potential but has just been used up by greedy studios wanting to cash in on it. In this case I think the Moon is a roll of found film too far.

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