Sunday, November 11, 2012

Apollo 18

2011 ***1/2

This is a found footie with an excellent hook. While officially the final moon mission was Apollo 17 in 1972, some outfit called The Lunar Truth has furnished a 90-minute look at the real final moon mission, which happened two years later and is the reason we never went back.

Before I get into the whys and wheretoos, I must say this movie is completely convincing. I don't mean it's trying to pass off the story as real, because it isn't, I mean it all looks like perfectly genuine footage from 1974, and I never had reason to doubt they were on the moon. It's also suitably realistic in terms of character: the dialogue, tech savvy and professional behavior all make it easy to accept these men as real life astronauts. This is essential for such a reality-grounded movie as this one, it would only take one poorly executed detail to throw the viewer off, and that never happens here.

It is also worth noting that, of all the sci-fi I screened last month, it was this movie that really punched me with the danger and isolation of outer space. The two astronauts who land on the surface are so devastatingly alone, somehow even more so than the lone guy orbiting above them. The claustrophobic interior of the lunar lander coupled with the beautiful, cold (airless, lethal) vistas of the moon's surface create an exceptional atmosphere for tension and suspense.

That said, I didn't rate Apollo 18 that highly and I think more could have been done with this premise. Unfortunately I can't get into it further without spoiling some stuff, and I think this is better the less you know going in. It's a bit of a slow burner. Amusingly enough I checked JPX's review and the spoil/don't spoil question is discussed in the comments (Johnny peeked, I didn't).

So unless you've seen it, spoiled it, or you're sure you don't care, please don't glimpse at the text between these last two pictures. And I do mean glimpse, it's possible you could read just one wrong word and blow something.

I must finally mention that the footprint on the poster below is not something you see in the movie. There might be some footprints, I ain't sayin'. But there certainly aren't any that look like that.

Okay, SPOILERS coming!

Are you still looking? At the SPOILERS?

SPOI-- oh forget it. It should be just us, now.

It's rocks. The monster is rocks. There are certain moonrocks that are actually bug-like critters that can scrunch up their bug legs so they're just rocks. This brought to mind a B.C. comic strip I saw when I was a kid. I've failed to find a scan of it so here goes:

Panel 1
Caveman 1: I can read minds! Think of something!
Caveman 2: (Thought bubble appears with a picture of a rock.)

Panel 2
Caveman 1: It's a rock!
Caveman 2: Yes, that's amazing!

Panel 3
Caveman 2 (Thinking as Caveman 1 smugly walks away): What else is there?

I imagined the Apollo 18 brainstorming session in which they worked out what the monster would be, and in my mind-story someone asked "So what is there on the moon?" and someone else said "Rocks." And then they all sat there looking at each other uncomfortably for a while and then ordered some Thai food, stunned silent in the face of their collective lack of imagination.

But really the idea probably originated because in real life we've hauled hundreds of pounds of moon rocks home and the Nixon Administration gave away a total of 270 of them to various foreign dignitaries and of those 160 of them have been lost. (Some of this info is provided in text at the movie's end, some I got off of Wikipedia.) The filmmakers wanted to tie in their creepy story with reality but who really cares about rocks? Even in a fictional way, am I supposed to be worried about rock-bugs that never really show anything but animal-level intelligence? What could their agenda possibly be, and why should I worry about it if 40 years have passed without any sort of moon rock rebellion?

Finally I want to give a shout out to the awesome image of the Soviet LK lander. Soviet space tech is sooo cool looking, and since in real life none of their landers actually landed on the moon, it's neat to see its not-quite-familiar shape parked in a familiar lunar setting. In addition to the cool subversive secret, the lander kind of looks like the bugs.





Catfreeek said...

Your review of this is spot on, for all the authenticity it still doesn't quite provide the impact that it potentially could have. However the visuals in the film are fantastic and that isolation factor you talk about was almost maddening for me. Great review.

JPX said...

I’m so glad you liked this movie! I thought it was terrific and it’s an excellent example of characters behaving the way they should behave given the circumstances (see also: Moon. Don’t see: Prometheus). As you note “Apollo 18” does an excellent job conveying the absolute isolation of space. It still amazes me that humans have been on the moon; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. This film did not receive the accolades it should have when it was released. I’m sure it was lumped in with other found footage films and was quickly dismissed. It is definitely worth checking out! Great review.

DCD said...

I'd like to see this one so avoiding spoiler section and reading comments. Luckily my memory is crap, so if I read the spoilers on JPX's review I don't remember!