My son and I went to the theater in the fall of 2011 and watched Apollo 18 together. I can remember that after the film, I kept asking myself what I had just seen. I kind of enjoyed it, but felt that it had left me somewhat cold. After that I didn’t think much about it.
On Black Friday last year, Diane (my dear wife who completely supports my post-adolescent sci-fi affectation) found Apollo 18 available at a good price and picked it up for me. I put it on the shelf where it has been since then. Last night, I finally took it out of the wrapper and gave it a watch.
What prompted me to view it last night was that I had recently purchased and watched another movie called Europa Report. Like Europa Report, Apollo 18 was filmed as a “found footage” movie that was to explain the events of an incident that had taken place. I am not a fan of this type of film making, mostly because it doesn’t allow for a great deal of character development, and doesn’t give me very much of a reason to care much about what happens to the characters in a film.
The events of Apollo 18 take place two years after the final mission to the moon in 1972 of Apollo 17.
The U.S. Department of Defense resurrects the cancelled Apollo 18 mission as a top secret mission to send men to the moon to deploy detectors to monitor any impending missile attacks by the USSR. Astronauts Walker, Anderson, and Grey are sent to the moon aboard a Saturn V rocket. The public is told that this is an un-manned launch of a very heavy payload to cover up the real intent of the mission.
Upon reaching the moon, Astronauts Walker and Anderson land on the moon, plant a flag, deploy one of the detectors, and take a few rock samples. Back on their LM, they discover that one of the samples they had previously had secured was on the floor. Upon further exploration, the pair find that there are footprints on the moon that are not their own. Upon following those prints, they discover a Soviet lunar lander and a dead cosmonaut. They ask NASA Mission Control about this discovery and are simply told to continue on with their mission.
During the astronaut’s sleep cycle, they hear noises from outside the lander.
The next day, the astronauts discover that the flag they have planted has been shredded and other equipment had been compromised. With their mission objectives complete, Walker and Anderson decide it is time to leave the moon, but are forced to abort the launch of the LM due to violent shaking of the craft. While outside to inspect the reason for the problems with the LM, Walker reports that he feels something crawling around inside his EVA suit and a spider-like creature moves across is faceplate. Walker then disappears from view and is soon discovered unconscious by Anderson. In the LM, Anderson removes a moon rock from Walker’s abdomen, which is apparently alive as it jumps out of the picture, and later walks across the camera lens inside the LM.
Since their LM is incapacitated, the pair head toward the Soviet lander with the intention to escape the moon in that. As they approach the crater, Walker decides that the pair cannot return to the earth because they may spread the “infection” to the planet. Abandoning Walker, Anderson enter the Societ lander and prepares to leave the moon. Walker attacks the craft to try to prevent Anderson from taking off, but the alien life form kills Walker. Anderson is informed that he is not to attempt to leave the moon and his family will be informed that he died a hero. Anderson manages to launch and as he heads toward the CSM to rejoin the orbiting Grey, who is informed by NASA that communications will be cut off making it impossible for his to return if he takes Anderson on board. Meanwhile on the Soviet lander, rocks floating around in the craft change into the alien life form, attack and kill Anderson. At this point, the found footage ends.
The film continues explaining that the astronauts lost their lives due to various earth bound accidents. It is also reported that many of the samples returned to the earth on previous Apollo missions have gone missing and are yet unaccounted for.
There are numerous problems with this story that don’t jibe with what one may consider the facts.
First, as far as I know, it took thousands of people to run the Apollo program, and when the program was scrapped, a large number of people were let go by NASA as the agency turned its attention to the Space Shuttle program. Who were the people that prepared the Apollo 18 mission to take place?
Next, how did the USSR land on the moon without being detected? Even if the DoD knew about the landing, wouldn’t have some civilian astronomer have discovered it and made it public. Along with that, the Soviets had just about bankrupted themselves in an attempt to beat us to the moon with no success whatsoever. According to former astronaut Walter Cunningham, the then Soviets would have had no space program without help from the U.S. as they worked on the Apollo-Soyuz program.
Finally, the biggest plot hole that I didn’t even think about and was pointed out to me by Starbbase 66 host Rick Tetrault; how and where was the “found” footage found? In the film Europa Report, communications that were previously cut off had been restored giving the sole surviving member of the doomed expedition the opportunity to send the data to mission control before being overcome. No such thing happened with the Apollo 18 crew. In a Facebook conversation concerning this film, after expressing his regret to me that I was inflicting Apollo 18 on myself, Rick said…
“The fact that none of them made it off the moon, and no transmissions were sent, means that the whole 'found footage' conceit was bull(crap). The last minute of the movie torpedoed the rest for me.”
After reading this, I began to think, yes, both of the astronauts that were on the moon were killed by the alien life form, and the one who decided to go ahead with the rescue of Anderson would not have been able to return begs the question, just how did the footage get found without communication capabilities, and with none of the three astronauts returning to earth?
Rick accurately points out that suspension of disbelief can only take one so far.
I guess my biggest problem with the film is twofold. First, had I known that Apollo 18 was going to be a sci-fi/horror film, I would have never gone to the theater to see it in the first place. Sci-fi movies that resort to mysterious monsters to create a threatening situation are old hat, and as far as I am concerned, there hasn’t been a good film of this type made since Alien. The other problem that bothered me was the implied claim that every Apollo mission that made it to the moon, six in all, all brought back some alien entity that would eventually threaten the people of the good Earth.
If there is any redeeming quality to Apollo 18, it is that the film maker used footage from real NASA film to lend the film at least a little credibility. I would also like to point out that the accoutrements of the film, while not being totally accurate from what I remember of the Apollo days, were authentic enough to pass as accurate. Another aspect of Apollo 18 that was very well done is the moon set. It looks very authentic and actually added to my ability to find something believable in this film
So, in my estimation, Apollo 18 was a fairly good film idea that went very bad. I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend this film. If you are looking for a far better "found film" style of movie, take a look at Europa Report. It is far more believable, and at least the film makers of that one tried to plug any major plot holes.
Well, there it is…