DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
Apollo 18 (2011)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/27/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/24/2011
After watching Apollo 18, I asked my kids what they know about the space program. As it turns out, they knew very little, as they gave me answers which had more to do with astronomy than astronauts. This points to the importance of timing when it comes to releasing a movie -- not just the time of year, but the time in history. Apollo 18 is a movie with a lot of potential, but it may have been released about 30 years to late.
Apollo 18 is a found footage movie, and a note at the opening tells us that it is comprised of an edited version of hours of material which was uploaded to a website. The footage shows us a secret Department of Defense mission to the moon which occurred at Christmas time in 1974. Astronauts Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie), John Grey (Ryan Robbins), and Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen) squeeze into the space capsule and are launched under the guise of a routine satellite procedure. A few days later, Anderson and Walker take the lunar lander to the surface of the moon. Once there, they begin their mission of setting up missile detectors. On the second day, Walker falls and sustains a cut. He also claimed that something was inside of his suit. Grey examines the wound, and finds something in it. After that, things settle down, until Walker begins to exhibit signs of an infection. As Grey worries about Walker, he begins to realize that they may not be alone on the moon.
There's a lot happening in Apollo 18, beginning with the format and the style of the movie. Aside from some documentary footage before lift-off, the footage comes from cameras mounted in the capsule and lunar lander, cameras mounted on the astronauts suits, and hand-held cameras. Many found-footage movies to some extent feature the characters documenting or narrating the action. Apollo 18 is made to look-like NASA footage from a real mission. This means that we get a lot of quick cuts, muffled dialogue, and jargon like EVA and LEM. I can see how this could make the movie very difficult to follow for some. At no point does the film stop to tell a "story". Instead, we merely observe Walker and Grey on their mission (with occasional comments from Anderson), and watch as their predicament becomes more and more dire.
As for the story, it's decidedly hit or miss. I won't give anything away here, but I will say that the idea of what is menacing the astronauts is both interesting and very silly. If you can ignore the silly aspect, which is tough at times, Apollo 18 is a very intriguing and creepy movie. In some ways, this is like Alien on a much, much smaller scale. We get two astronauts who are being menaced by an alien force which can easily conceal itself. As the film progresses, the danger grows and we learn more (but not a lot) about what is happening. The found-footage format definitely comes into play here. First of all, it allows the filmmakers to only show bits and pieces of the monsters without feeling as if it is cheating. Secondly, while there is some foreshadowing, we basically learn what is happening right along with Walker and Grey. Therefore, suspense is kept to a minimum, but there are some good "jump" scares. However, some shots where things are moving in the background definitely work as being creepy.
So, Apollo 18 plays as more of an experience than a complete movie. The movie gets off to a very slow start and it may lose some viewers. However, stick with it and you'll find that the second half contains some good jolts, that is if you aren't too busy rolling your eyes over what is happening. Having said that, the text at the end is chilling. The problem with Apollo 18 is that the ending renders the entire movie nonsensical and we realize that the entire movie is a plothole. When was the last time you saw that? Of course, once you see the extras on the Blu-ray Disc, you'll learn that Apollo 18 was made very quickly and that some odd and, in hindsight, ill-advised, editing decisions were made, and that the movie could have not only made sense, but it could have been much better. Still, Apollo 18 has its moments, and for someone like me, who grew up with an interest in astronauts, the idea of a NASA horror movie is an intriguing one.
Apollo 18 made me wonder if Russian technology was really that different on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1, but due to the various elements used for the movie, the aspect ratio varies from 1.78:1 to 1.33:1. The Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. Again, the film is meant to look like 37-year old footage from space, so it's properly scratched and degraded. There are changes in light quality and overexposure. All of this is meant to happen and the antiquated look works well. When need be, the image is clear so that we can see the necessary details. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track features clear dialogue and sound effects. We get some intentional scratches, pops, and muffled dialogue. Outside of that, there some nicely done stereo and surround sound effects, especially those which let us know that something is happening outside of the LEM. The subwoofer effects work well during liftoff.
The Apollo 18 Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and Editor Patrick Lussier. The Disc contains four, yes four ALTERNATE ENDINGS which run about 5 minutes. Each shows a different take on the fate of one of the characters. I guess these were shot to give editing choices. I did like the one where he screams "Don't come back to the moon!" We get sixteen DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 20 minutes. Most of these are very brief, but as with the ALTERNATE ENDINGS, they tell us that they had no idea how to end the movie.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long