Apollo 18

Appreciate the vision, even if the film stumbles.

By the time Apollo 18 was over, I had a whole mess of thoughts going on in my head. Even now, days later, I write this from a place of confusion because I’m still not totally sure if I liked it or not.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project, Hollywood has been wont to churn out the newest first-person, handicam-shot moneymaker, and it hasn’t been shy about trying. Movies like Paranormal Activity did a good job of making it work, while something like Cloverfield captured Blair Witch’s marketing machismo much more than it did the on-screen magic. Apollo 18 has come along and carved out a niche of its own in the market, though I’m still unsure what that niche is exactly.

In attempting to throw a slight wrench into the “found footage” genre, the entire film purports to be edited from 84 hours of footage shot by astronauts who flew the last mission to the moon, one that was off the books as a result of its disastrous outcome. What we get is a look into that mission as shot by our pals the spacemen. The results are a mixed bag.

That stuff, coupled with a director and crew trying something other than putting Channing Tatum in a tight shirt and making him drive a fast car through a romantic city, deserves credit.

I’ll be clear on this: the movie doesn’t suck. It captures claustrophobia and a feeling of helplessness quite nicely, and is shot in such a way that leaves your skin crawling at the sheer vastness of what the astronauts are facing. However that would have been prevalent even if there were no horror elements, as two dudes on the moon alone is probably enough to promote the feeling.

That lends itself to the idea that something about the film doesn’t feel right. And not in the “ohmygoddon’topenthedoorthere’samonsterinthere!” sense, but more in a “why can’t I get into this more?” sense.

Perhaps it’s the difficulty in developing an actual narrative when all exposition has to take place through scenes shot by the characters living them.

Maybe it’s the fact that being in space is something only a handful of people in the world can relate to, and sitting at my desk doing paperwork precludes me from that list.

It could be that the foe the astronauts eventually face is just plain lame.

I really don’t know, but something about it kept me from jumping in with both feet. It was like I wanted more of a payoff, and what came was just sort of…flat.

But as I thought about it when the movie ended I realized that while the film itself stumbled, I actually appreciated the vision that it had and the scope of its attempt.

At a time when sequels and reboots rule the day and executives are simply looking to breath new life into any past franchise that might pump out a buck, can you genuinely hate a film that so aggressively pursues something different? I don’t think I can.

Sure, Apollo 18 isn’t perfect. It probably doesn’t leave you satisfied the way it could or maybe even should. But there are some great visuals, a genuine feeling of panic from guys who know they’re alone a million miles from home – and then realize they’re actually not – and the authentic feel of the footage and how it’s shot is awesome.

That stuff, coupled with a director and crew trying something other than putting Channing Tatum in a tight shirt and making him drive a fast car through a romantic city, deserves credit.

So credit I’ll give it. It might not be the perfect movie, but you can’t fault something for having ambition that far exceeds its capabilities. For that reason, moviegoers could do worse.

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