Old 09-04-2011, 01:57 PM
Gonzalo López-Gallego's Apollo 18

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Apollo 18 (2011)

Here we have yet another entry in the increasingly-tiresome “found footage” genre that attempts to elicit thrills and chills by showing us strange and disconcerting scenes that filmmakers would like us to believe are a true document of an event. One of the main problems is that this is a genre that’s been done to death already in the 12 years since it started with “The Blair Witch Project,” and it doesn’t seem like it’s about to end anytime soon what with yet another “Paranormal Activity” film due out next month along with other similar films in the works. “Apollo 18” merely adds on to this heap of forgettable films.

The premise involves three astronauts, Nathan Walker, John Grey, and Benjamin Anderson, who are sent to the moon in 1974 on a secret mission to set up special devices that would help the United States detect incoming missiles from Soviet Russia. Through several reels of footage, we witness their mission including their arrival, sample collecting, and the setting up of the missile detectors. Then some strange things begin to happen.

While searching around their landing site, they discover tracks that lead to a Russian spacecraft and a deceased cosmonaut. On top of that, their flag suddenly disappears and equipment begins to malfunction. It’s not long before they figure there may be another cosmonaut there with them, or quite possibly, something else there that caused the death of the Russian and is now coming for them.

“Apollo 18” suffers from a problem that all films in this genre do. Quite simply, it’s very dull for most of its runtime. Whenever a filmmaker tries to make a film like this, in an attempt to make it seem real, they make much of it a mundane experience, leaving any possibility of entertainment until the very end. This is a problem that has lingered in these films ever since “Blair Witch.”

In that film, we have to wait through the mundane onset of the project for almost the entire film before anything interesting happens. For “Paranormal Activity,” we have to sit through the mind-numbingly slow parts of a haunted house story before anything interesting happens. Likewise, in “Apollo 18,” there is a vast majority of its runtime spent lulling the audience to sleep with a plot that feels like it’s at a standstill as things slowly start happening.

Perhaps this is simply unavoidable for the sake of trying to pass off the footage as real, even though the audience goes in fully-knowing that it’s not. Perhaps another approach is called for, one that would allow you to be placed right in the middle of the strange events without having to be bored to death first. As a matter of fact, this was the original approach writer Brian Miller had to “Apollo 18” before it was subsequently rewritten by Cory Goodman.

Arguably, it would have made for a more exciting film if the studio had allowed this original approach to be used, but for some reason, the studio felt the need to have Goodman (writer of the terrible “Priest” from earlier this year) rewrite it almost entirely from scratch. I don’t know about you, but the writer of “Priest” would not have been my first choice for a page one re-write of something I was hoping was going to be engaging.

The film itself is quite short running under 80 minutes, but even so, with most of it focusing on rather dull events, coupled with the banality of the genre, it feels much longer than that. It does begin to pick up at the end as things begin to go out of control, but it’s far too late by this point to salvage the film.

There’s a reason this film was moved around among several different release dates and was not screened for any critics prior to its release. “Apollo 18” is another dud in a genre that should have stopped before it got out of hand. Hopefully, there will come a day very soon where filmmaker will realize that this is a genre that just doesn’t work very well, and that the whole “found footage” craze was and has always been as doomed as their subjects usually are. 2/4 stars.
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