September 4, 2011

Movie Review: Apollo 18

When I first saw the trailer for Apollo 18 I must admit to being immediately curious. We have finally sent the found footage style film into space. You know it was only a matter of time, just look at all the franchises that have sent their stories to the stars, such as Friday the 13th, Leprechaun, and Hellraiser! All right, maybe I was being a little facetious, but still, it was going to happen sooner or later. It's arrival has been met with a mixture of reviews, both good and bad, and capped with a healthy dose of anti-found footage sentiment. I never could understand the hate leveled against found footage films. Maybe I do, I just don't agree with it.

Apollo 18 is the latest in a long line of found footage films, a trend that was kicked off properly back in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project. You remember that one, right? That was the one that actually had people believing it was for real. I still like that film. The style itself dates back to at least 1980 when Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust shocked audiences. However you want to look at it, it is an interesting tool and one that can be very effective if used properly. Aah, there's the kicker. The key is if it is used properly. Is it used to its full effect in Apollo 18? Not quite, but for the most part it works very well.

It is interesting to note that while no one should ever be fooled into believing these movies are real, apparently there are people who do believe the faux truth, or are at least convinced that there may be some truth. NASA has taken steps to dissuade people from believing in the events of this movie in an interview Bert Ulrich, NASA's liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations, gave to the LA Times. So, let it be said, this is not real. However, while it is a work of fiction, there is nothing stopping you from letting go and slipping into the reality the movie creates. It is all right to believe for a couple of hours. It helps.

As we all know, the plans for missions following Apollo 17 were scrapped. This movie brings up the idea that maybe they weren't. What if the scrapped plans was just a diversion for the public and in actuality other governmental departments, like, say, the Department of Defense, got involved to keep these missions going, but made everything top secret? To take it a step further, what if they new something they did not tell the astronauts?

The bottom line is that this movie supposes that there is extraterrestrial life on the Moon, that we knew about it, and we used astronauts as guinea pigs. Granted, much of this is left for you to piece together the surrounding info, but isn't that part of the fun? We follow the three man team as they launch the secret mission and split off in orbit for two to land on the surface. The surface is a desolate and unforgiving place. The two astronauts are faced with inexplicable static, and then the things start happening they find things that probably should not be there and then, and then.... well, you should just see the movie.

The movie was directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego and he does a very good job of making the footage look authentic. It really looked like it was made from 70's footage. There is some nice tension built and a couple effective jumps that got most of my audience on the edge of their seats.

 It is not a perfect movie and suffers from a lot of the same issues that plague other found footage entries. Namely you have limited room for actual character development and plot exposition, since these are meant to look and feel as real as possible, they are given a touch of reality and reality can be boring. I am not using this as an excuse, but it is a built in drawback for the device.

I liked Apollo 18. Is it the best example of the format? Probably not, but it is executed well and it builds to a conclusion that makes sense within context, but is sure to annoy many. While I like it, I cannot say the same for the rest of you. The main question to ask yourself is do you like found footage movies? The answer will inform you if you should see this or not.


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