“Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts on Apollo 18 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.”
Government conspiracy? Maybe. Did this potentially awesome film fall flat on it’s face? Yes… to say the least. Even watching the trailer again for this PG-13 movie makes me roll my eyes. This 2011 movie follows the same blurry and choppy filming effect as seen in the Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity franchise. This “found footage” concept in movies has become very popular in recent years because for the viewer, it’s difficult to decipher between fact or fiction. And just so there is no confusion before I go any farther, Apollo 18 is NOT A TRUE STORY! No joke, NASA officials actually had to release statements saying: “ No, this looks real, but it’s just a movie.” Really people?
Footage from space missions tends to be slightly spooky and unsettling by nature, so it did have that positive going for it. The story establishes that there are various fixed cameras on the shuttle as well as hand-held cameras, resulting in harsh lighting and odd angles that can make the images very creepy. This explains the differences in quality, color and texture of footage. As I would consider this to be the scariest part of the movie, there was nothing paranormal or “ET” about it.
The entire basis of the so-called “plot” is that someone (we never learn who exactly) stumbles upon this unfiltered space footage from decades ago of the Apollo 18 mission. This footage unveils a government conspiracy covering up the evidence of extraterrestrial beings on the moon. With no prior research for this movie, I honestly rented this thinking it was a family friendly “space” movie to watch with my six year old. I was NOT expecting what I witnessed.
The movie takes place in December 1974. As the movie begins, the crew is being individually introduced to the audience as an attempt to personalize the characters (I’m assuming) so later on you will feel emotion towards them as the events play out. This is not a successful attempt. Commander Nathan Walker, Lieutenant Colonel John Grey and Captain Benjamin Anderson are launched towards the moon where they will place detectors that can alert the United States of any impending attacks from the USSR…or so they think. Two of the astronauts land on the moon, while the third remains in orbit, ready to pilot their ride home when the mission is complete. They soon discover that something is amiss in one of the craters. As the days tick down on the mission, the situation becomes increasingly unusual and the astronauts begin to suspect that they weren’t actually sent on a mission to monitor Soviets, but were sent to the moon to draw out a dangerous threat to humanity.
A glimmer of excitement eventually comes when the pair stumbles across an abandoned Soviet space shuttle and the body of a mysteriously deceased Russian in one of the deep craters. Baffled and growing increasingly nervous, they contact Houston, only to have their fears confirmed…they are not alone up there. Soon after learning this knowledge, while the shaky hand-held camerawork and harsh lighting create and unsettling atmosphere, we catch quick glimpses of stray moon rocks (yes, I said moon rocks), which seem to sprout spidery looking legs and rapidly move about.
While one of the astronauts is outside of the shuttle checking on a camera, he begins to go berserk, screaming, “There is something inside my suit!!” This is the first sighting in the movie of the spider/rock aliens crawling inside his helmet and across his face. After this occurrence, there are no surprising developments except for how uninteresting the alien threat turns out to be. The gore factor is at a minimum, and there are no overly exciting, fancy effects to mention. Finally, through a series of uneventful and drawn out scenes, both astronauts become infected and they learn from Houston that there is no chance of them returning home. Confused? Yes, so was I.
The movie does have a couple positive aspects to it. First, it gives you an anxious sense of uncertainty and mystery; however, the story never takes full advantage of that. The characters are boring and the action scenes that are supposed to be at peak intensity fall short again and again. Confused throughout, I was literally saying aloud, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?” This lack of clarity can be frustrating to the viewer, especially when the paranormal creeps in. Second, the realism of the movie site actually looks more authentic than photos of the actual moon landing. Finally, the movie fades out and a web address appears on the screen: To learn more visit: www.lunartruth.com. This site has been shut down or maybe never existed to begin with. This fuels the viewer’s mind with the whole fictitious conspiracy behind the movie.
While running with an intriguing concept, Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego’s Apollo 18 ends up as a major disappointment. By the time the ending rolls around, there is still an unfulfilled feeling left in the air, such a shame. Still on the fence about this movie, watch the trailer below and judge for yourself. Government conspiracy or not, when it comes to Apollo 18, Houston, we have a problem.