Apollo 18 Blu-ray Review
Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego
Written by Brian Miller
2011, Region B (PAL), 86 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 26th December 2011
Warren Christie as Capt. Benjamin Anderson
Ryan Robbins as Lt. Col. John Grey
Lloyd Owen as Cdr. Nathan Walker
A grand day out takes a turn for the worse when astronauts encounter paranormal activity on the dark side of the Moon. 'There's a reason we've never gone back to the Moon' says the tagline. And that reason is far worse than Russians or Transformers. I find it a little implausible that space monsters would stop us from returning to the Moon. If Aliens taught us anything, it's that greedy humans love trying to capture and sell intergalactic nasties. The real reason we've never gone back to the moon is precisely because there are no Blair Witch Martians or Xenomorphs up there to sell.
The found footage subgenre is an acquired taste, but Apollo 18 seems to offer a flavour that's more exotic than most (insert joke about cheese here). It being set on the Moon should intrigue even the most vocal Paranormal Activity detractor. The location is naturally creepy, the threat less clear than ghosts or zombies. Since it's an official NASA exploration, there's a convincing reason for the protagonists to be carrying cameras around. That becomes stretched towards the end, but not as much so as other films of this variety tend to get.
But whilst the presentation is cute, everything else feels predictable. It's essentially The Blair Witch Project, relocated to the Moon. It alleges a 40-year cover up from NASA, but you'd think that someone (not least the 40,000 or so people it takes to put an operation like that together) would have noticed a honking great spaceship being shot up there. NASA do not approve of Apollo 18, shaking their heads disappointedly at its bad science. And they were fine with Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Who knows, maybe this film touched a nerve. It's plausible enough to have your stupidest friend mistake it for a documentary.
The setting is fantastic. The Moon has never looked scarier. Scenes inside the Moon lander are claustrophobic and creepy. The constantly bleeping machinery adds to the spooky atmosphere. But whilst there are some good jump scares and tense, very creepy moments, it's never as scary as Paranormal Activity or exhilarating as [Rec].
As you'd expect from a place that's little more than a giant rockery, there's not much to do on the Moon. This manifests itself in the film's dullness. There's a lot of talking and a lot of filler. The characters are hard to care about, particularly as there's no real distinction between the men. It's especially hard to tell them apart when they're wearing their spacesuits. Maybe they should have gone the Duncan Jones' Moon route and had all the characters played by the same actor.
Despite its fantastic setting and interesting story, Apollo 18 is a disappointment. It's downright boring at times, lacking in character and thrills. The ending is far too predictable. But the most disappointing thing about Apollo 18 is that nobody at any point says the words “Houston, we have a problem.” I was on tenterhooks a whole 75 minutes, waiting for someone to say that.
Video and Audio:
It looks crisp and gritty at the same time. High definition Blu-ray really works a treat on the darker scenes. It sounds great too; its collection of R2-D2 beeps, bleeps and boops really appealing to the ten year old spaceship fanatic inside all of us.
There's a director's commentary, 14 deleted scenes and 5 alternate endings. Some of the material is interesting (particularly the footage recovered from a Russian cosmonaut) but none of it indispensable.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are publicity stills and not a reflection of the Blu-ray image.*