Apollo 18, from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Dimension Films and directory Gonzalo López-Gallego, comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on December 27th. Presented as a “found footage” film (similar to The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity), it documents the ultra-secret Apollo 18 mission to the Moon’s South Pole in 1974 – a mission so secret the astronauts don’t know what they are there for. It stars Warren Christie (Alphas), Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary) and Lloyd Owen (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Monarch of the Glen).
Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 7, 1972, was the last manned mission to the moon. But two years later, in December of 1974, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.
As a “found footage” movie, everything is seen from the point of view of cameras as would likely have been available on such a mission: fixed cameras in the cabins, handhelds, and some external cameras. Given the time, most all the footage is shown in a 4×3 aspect ratio, just as it would have been. The only widescreen content was for the external cameras, which appeared to be more for the audience’s benefit. And the footage looks realistic for the equipment, with the Super-8-style film having graininess and scratches, although perhaps a lot clearer than would be expected for 37-year old recently discovered footage. After all, we needed to be able to see it…
Given the plot, most of the footage takes place within the cabins, similar to a “bottle” episode of a TV series. In such situations, the acting really becomes important as the characters really drive the plot. While we don’t learn a ton about the characters themselves, the actors overall did a good job. Perhaps the least convincing was that of Commander Nathan Walker (Owen) – I just didn’t feel that he was convincing for what he was going through. Christie was more convincing as the one having to deal with him.
Possibly where this movie fails most is in the scare factor. If you are expecting jump out of your seat stuff, you aren’t going to get it. There is a certain level of fright, but it’s more at the level of “What’s going on out there in the dark that we can’t see?” There are some startling moments, but I found them fairly tame.
There were various technical nitpick issues as well, although I thought most of the things were pretty accurate. But the biggest of which was – how did the footage get back to Earth if we never went back? That and a lot of the sounds wouldn’t actually be heard through the hard vacuum on the moon.
Overall though, I’m going to disagree with the majority and say I actually liked the movie. I found it interesting and well presented, and I’m not a fan of “jump out of your seat” stuff so I was glad they didn’t make me. Some of it kind of reminded me of Event Horizon, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Reminding me of that movie generally isn’t a good thing though.
The DVD and Blu-ray are pretty much identical for features, the difference being in the video and audio quality. The bonus features on each include a full-length commentary track from director Gonzalo López-Gallego and editor Patrick Lussier, and several deleted scenes which include a series of “diary” segments from Ryan Robbins character, giving him some more screen time (he played the command module pilot, so he was in orbit during most of the movie) and show him dealing with being all alone for several days. These may have been the most interesting character moments.
HEAVY SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE MOVIE – DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WISH TO BE SURPRISED
Also on the disc is 4 alternate versions of the ending, which cover four other possible fates for Captain Benjamin Anderson (Christie), entitled “The Many Deaths of LMP Ben Anderson”. All of them imply a different fate for Lt. Col. John Grey (Robbins) than the one given in the final production, allowing him to be the lone survivor, which explains the deleted scene where he appears to be debriefed.