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To the history books Apollo 17 was NASA's last Apollo mission, but an undocumented and covert operation to the moon was made by Apollo 18, which revealed disturbing evidence of new life forms.
For more about Apollo 18 and the Apollo 18 Blu-ray release, see Apollo 18 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Ali Liebert
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
» See full cast & crew
Apollo 18 Blu-ray Review
This movie will give you the crabs.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 14, 2011
Nobody knows about us.
There's something to be said for the sheer entertainment value of real revisionist history, and not just the "spin" that's so prevalent in modern media. Revisionist history allows the imagination to run absolutely wild in the pursuit of the ultimate game of "what if." Author Harry Turtledove has made a pretty nice career as, arguably, the definitive writer of such things, his stories featuring subjects ranging from a Confederate victory in the American Civil War to an unlikely alliance between the Allied and Axis powers of World War II to fend off attacking aliens. It's all juicy, highly entertaining fare, and it's a little slice of revisionist history that's at the center of Apollo 18, a movie that's also the embodiment of a Conspiracy Theorist's dream come true. Unfortunately, the end result isn't quite up to par with the quality of the typical Turtledove story. Apollo 18 meshes revisionist history with the relatively recent trend of "lost and found footage" cinema that was made popular by The Blair Witch Project and made into something of a genre staple with the success of Cloverfield and the Paranormal Activity series. So basically, Apollo 18 is any of those movies In Space, and like the Leprechaun's jaunt into the heavens, the results just aren't all that good. The movie starts strong, goes downhill in its middle act, and turns into a pure snoozer during the all-important climax. Who knew it was even possible to make the moon and aliens boring?
On December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 blasted off en route to the moon, marking an end to the Apollo missions, the popular program cut for, what else, budgetary purposes. Or so the public was told. The truth is that another mission quietly launched to the moon in 1974 under top secret Department of Defense orders. Each member of the three-man team -- Captain Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie), Lieutenant Colonel John Grey (Ryan Robbins), and Commander Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen) -- was excited to take his place in an unwritten little corner of history and do his part for his country, even John, who was the unlucky member of the crew tasked with remaining in the orbiter rather than traipsing about on the moon's surface. Their task was to install spy equipment on the surface of the moon in an effort to keep ahead of the Soviet Union in the Cold War, but little did the men know that they've been launched into space for other reasons, too. On day two of their mission, they picked up unusual information over their comm systems. Lunar rocks previously sealed and put away for safekeeping for the return trip to Earth were suddenly found on the floor of the lander. Mysterious footprints were discovered. The planted American flag went missing. And Ben and Nathan discovered the remnants of a Russian capsule and the remains of a deceased Cosmonaut. As they attempted to solve the mysteries of the moon, they came to realize that they were not alone and that the moon may not be as desolate and inhospitable as it was once believed to be. This is their story, edited together from 84 hours of raw footage leaked to the Internet some 35 years later.
Apollo 18 is a rather disappointing venture. It's amazing how the film nosedives in its second half, considering its relative strengths at the outset. Certainly, the beginning third of the picture isn't Oscar material or anything, but the film appears headed in the right direction, setting up its audience for a fun little Horror jaunt across the lunar surface. Despite the whole "lost/found footage" thing not being necessarily new, the movie does feel rather original and fresh, if only for the story's novelty and its ability to craft rather authentic-looking archival footage from the Apollo program set during the Cold War, which adds another layer of tension to an already halfway frightening premise. It's all very convincing, nicely paced, and entertaining, all the while doing well to create something of a foreboding atmosphere for what's to come. The movie's early segments get a lot of mileage out of some genuinely creepy sound effects and a few surprisingly effective jump scares. The performances are up to the challenge of meeting and exceeding the requirements, too; the three main actors play their parts with an air of authenticity, enthusiasm, and professionalism. At least early in the movie, they never give off any indication that they're "acting," which is exactly what these pseudo-reality sort of films need, perhaps more than any other element, to have a shot at success.
Sadly, Apollo 18 rapidly deteriorates once the action is established. What was once a creepy premise made all the better by fairly good acting quickly devolves into a mundane string of discoveries and puzzle-solving which, like the rest of the movie, started promisingly enough, only for the string of oddities and strange occurrences to transform into plot elements that are grasping at straws at best taking the easy way out at worst. The movie slows to a crawl as the action inches towards the climax, which is exactly what anyone in film 101 will say is probably the worst thing that can happen to a movie, aside from it catching fire and becoming lost for all eternity. The picture's transition from catchy premise and nicely-executed fare to thematic nonsense, poor acting, awful pacing, and clichéd Horror dialogue are made all the worse by a disappointing revelation that the aliens aren't exactly the classic grays or something cool but rather moon rocks that sprout legs. Seriously, seeing the abandoned Russian capsule from a distance gives off more of an alien shape and vibe than do the moon crabs (sounds like a disease, not an alien). Apollo 18 could have been something fairly cool, like that old Walter Koenig flick Moontrap (which, by the way, desperately needs to find its way onto Blu-ray, but at this point a DVD would suffice), but it instead settles for moon crabs. Oh well.
Apollo 18 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Apollo 18 wasn't made to look good. It was made with the intention of showcasing scratchy, worn-down footage that's been locked away in a government vault for a few decades. This is the one area where the film really succeeds, and the Blu-ray shines. The 1080p transfer looks appropriately tattered from start to finish. Heavy grain, scratches, pops, and other random anomalies give it a well-worn and dated appearance. Colors are drab, with the bright red and blue of the U.S. flag really the only vibrant shades in a film otherwise made of grays and whites and blacks. Fine detail wavers, with the 16mm film elements looking fairly good, revealing adequate facial detail, particularly in the brighter scenes before the crew leaves for the moon. Lunar terrain occasionally yields a fair bit of complex texturing, too. Blacks are sturdy, and the image never shows too much in terms of banding or blocking. It's not pretty, and it's not meant to be. Anchor Bay's transfer seems faithful to the source, which is all one can really ask of a Blu-ray release.
Apollo 18 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Apollo 18 blasts onto Blu-ray with a good DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track delivers a steady, foreboding rumble in spots, which gives a nice bottom line to some of the more intense moments and adds some needed authority to scenes that need all the help they can get. The track also delivers some hefty bass during a rocket launch, which features a solid rumbling that nicely compliments the fiery visuals, though it's certainly not to the exacting, ear-shattering strength that would define a real rocket launch. The track in general is quite clear, with spacious music that lives mostly in the front channels. The back speakers remain relatively inactive, with the most obvious surround use coming when a symphony of alarms begin blaring in one critical scene later in the film. Dialogue is clear and focused, and it sounds great even when it's deliberately muffled through the astronauts' comm systems. This is a fine track, not quite in the format's upper tier but a serviceable presentation for sure.
Apollo 18 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Apollo 18 contains a large collection of deleted and extended scenes, four alternate endings, and an audio commentary. Note that some of the supplement titles spoil major parts of the film.
Apollo 18 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Apollo 18 should have been at worst entertaining B-movie fare, but it's instead a boring venture with unimaginative aliens, clichéd dialogue, and horrendous pacing. It's no wonder it wasn't screened in advance of its release. Perhaps the studio should have screened the first third of the movie, which is decent-to-good, but if this one's ever on cable, just stop after thirty minutes or so; the rest of it is pretty brutal. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Apollo 18 features a 1080p transfer that appears faithful to the source, a good lossless soundtrack, and a few extras. Skip it.
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Apollo 18 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Apollo 18 Blu-ray - October 24, 2011
In December, the Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Home Entertainment will release Apollo 18 on Blu-ray. This vérité-style horror film presupposes that the cancelled Apollo 18 lunar mission was a cover-up to shield the public from sinister encounters between the ...
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