Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego
Starring Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
The found footage type of film has been around much longer than people think but the truth is it really started to go mainstream with The Blair Witch Project. It’s a genre of film that’s tough to get right. Some films in the genre that truly nail it are of course The Blair Witch Project, but also The Last Broadcast, and Paranormal Activity. In a further extension of the genre Series 7 deserves a mention. That film isn’t a found footage film but instead a reality show where people literally kill each other for prizes (no not as gory or gritty as you may be thinking; it’s not a horror movie at all). There have also been films about making reality shows such as The Running Man and the awesomely awesome Battle Royale. Most often though this genre is made a disaster of by filmmakers too in love with their imagery or process to really get it right. It’s a fine line they have to walk between making the film tell the story and truly making the footage feel “found”.
Apollo 18 is about a final classified DOD sponsored Apollo mission to the moon. The problem is the moon rocks are badasses. They don’t take kindly to having ships dropped on their heads. The film is made up of four hours of declassified footage. Here’s the thing that’s a problem right away; would the government truly declassify footage that makes them look so sinister. I think we all know the answer to that. So the reality premise of the film kind of goes out the window right away.
Within the footage is home movie clips of a party featuring the team chosen to go on the mission, some interview footage, and of course footage from the mission taken from several 16 mm cameras provided to the astronauts to record the event for posterity. Everything is going well initially, too well in fact. Things are going so well for such a long span of time that the movie gets boring. It’s these sequences that the director truly gets the reality part right. The shots are off angle with things happening off screen and you know what the things happening are so mundane that you really don’t need to see them happen. These sorts of scenes are necessary for building the reality aspect of a project like this but a well done film would use these portions to actually develop the characters. Instead the characters are left to feel like cardboard standees like the ones in the Best Buy used to tell you how great some new gadget is or to advertise a good movie. There’s no depth to the characters so we really don’t care what happens to them. They don’t all look much alike but they feel so much alike that they begin to run together. I actually was looking forward to those damn rocks getting pissed. I kind of wanted them to squeak and bounce like tribbles too but that never happened.
The “action” packed sequences are just aggravating for the most part. When things kick in the lights decide to randomly start blinking. Now, there is some explanation for why this happens in the film but it happens so much it just started to feel like a crutch for the director, kind of like a brick wall was for the first half of Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career. When you do get to see some FX shots toward the end of the film they actually look fairly striking. In fact, the end of this movie is pretty damn entertaining and dark. Oh and by dark I’m not referring to the black and white footage or the scenes where the damn lights blink on and off.
There are more logic holes in this film than there are holes in the Swiss cheese Jerry always steals right from under Tom’s nose. These issues come up due to the reality/found footage aspect of the film. The shooting of Apollo 18 and the plotting of it just strays in and out of the genre at will making the entire thing fail. Sadly, the premise is actually a good one and would probably have been better served with a standard narrative film presentation rather than the overcooked under seasoned found footage entré the filmmakers chose.
Apollo 18 is supposed to look like rough old unkempt footage and even in this 1080p presentation it does. Colors and contrast appear to be represented here as the filmmakers intended and that’s about as good as it gets. The film looks appropriately crappy. How about that?
The surround sound presentation is mixed with distortion and other artifacts like the video to make feel old and beat up but dialogue that’s meant to be heard sounds great and the surrounds get some work from time to time. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s what it should be for a montage of footage that was supposed to have been shot over 30 years ago on low budget film.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two disc set is packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with retro looking moon landing style art for a cover, nothing special or particularly memorable; kind of like the movie now that I think of it. The first disc is a DVD/digital copy and the second disc is the blu-ray with the film and bonus features.
First up as far as bonus features go is an audio commentary with the director and editor. The commentary focuses on making the sets appear legitimate and making the footage feel old. There’s actually some good information here is you’re a student of the filmmaking process. Other than the commentary there are some deleted scenes and alternative endings, nothing too exciting here and nothing that would have improved the film had it been added back in. Where’s the trailer and featurettes? Meh.
Apollo 18 is a great concept for a film and it even features some entertaining government conspiracy stuff at the end but it’s just so poorly executed that nothing can really save it. It’s like saying “well that movie could have been good if it had a better director, revised script, and better actors.” Wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10
The Movie 3/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10