For the record, “Apollo 18” is no “Apollo 13.”
It doesn’t have the charm of Tom Hanks, or the pop-culture appeal of Kevin Bacon or even the calm power of an Ed Harris. I’ll just say it. It’s kind of a hot mess. An alien/horror/conspiracy theory/faux-lost-footage documentary? What the what?
And yet, for all its flaws, it kind of works. I know. I’m more surprised than you. Because for all I try not to sneak a peek at the reviews prior to my viewing experience – lest an unwanted metaphor burrow its way into brain – I did see enough of the “Apollo 18” reviews to brace myself for the worst. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hate it as deeply as so many others seemed to. That’s the bonus of low expectations.
The film is absolutely derivative. It reeks of “The Blair Witch Project,” with its producers asserting to the press that these tapes were just “found.” C’mon guys. Get off it. It’s the age of Google. What flies in 1999? Not so much any more.
In other news, I have not been so tense, so ill at ease, in a theatre in a long time. And isn’t that the whole point of these kinds of movies? And if so, then doesn’t that make it a success?
At the top of the story, we join three American astronauts in the wake of Neil Armstrong’s epic moon landing. NASA is still going to the moon, but the vibe has changed. This time, it’s top secret. Not even their wives can know what they’re up to. In a flash, they’re in orbit and a few seconds later, the two-man lunar team is on the surface, exploring.
Slowly and somewhat painfully, the plot reveals itself – first with a strange rock found languishing beside a crater and next with the discovery of another country’s abandoned vessel. To say anymore would rob you of the suspense.
The handheld, grainy shots flit quickly from one to the other, creating a sense that its subjects are on shaky footing. And as their whole world falls apart, you can’t help but think how many proverbial canaries have been lost throughout the years as we humans enter territories unknown, be them on Earth or in the heavens.
It also made me want to go to space camp. But that’s another story.
Catch it at at 12:20pm, 2:50pm, 5:20pm, 8pm an 10:10pm.