By Bret Dorman
Found Footage is a great idea for certain movies. Paranormal Activity exploited it well to make a very scary ghost movie. In most monster movies you just see a big crowd of people running around, but Cloverfield gave faces and names to some of those people.
You can pick on these movies for their flaws and yes, Found Footage movies come with some inherent flaws. That’s part of the deal. Being boring or having some boring parts will come with the territory. Not everyone will find every aspect of your movie engaging. Blair Witch Project had a lot of boring parts, but it was the first of its kind. The trend setter.
Apollo 18 would have been awesome, as is, about 10 years ago. But we know the drill. I want to see something interesting. Not a whole lotta nuthin.
The Story: 3 astronauts go to the moon on a super classified mission. They find alien life forms. But the movie doesn’t show you that for a long time or make it a big part of the movie until the very end. Also, there’s a scary Dead Russian!
Here’s how stupid Apollo 18 is on a logical level. Apollo 18 is a super secret mission that no one who is a part of can ever tell anyone else what it is. One of the astronauts is sad about the fact that he can’t ever tell his son he walked on the moon. Interesting… But then… why, if the mission is so super secret, do they make flight patches for them? “Hey, don’t tell ANYONE that you’ve been in space or to the moon but here’s this cool space patch that you can wear while on your super secret mission. But, uh, we’ll need those back, so don’t get too attached. Enjoy!”
But I’m not all about nitpicking films for silly little things like that.
Here’s the problem with Apollo 18 on a screenwriting level. We know this is not real. The movie bookends itself with ‘This is real stuff, man!’ and that’s fine. I’m willing to play into the gimmick. That’s fine.
I get that you have to set up some training stuff and actors talking to the camera to set up the emotional aspect of this movie. The first half hour you can do that. I get it. It’s part of any movie. Getting to know the characters.
But once they are on the moon, we know where this movie is going. We’ve seen the trailers. There’s something else out there. Let’s get to it! Spend a couple minutes of things going right before BAM! something strange starts happening! Don’t waste another half an hour.
Then once things do start to happen, make it interesting. This movie pretty quickly lets you know the monster gimmick (not 100% right away but any smart observant film goer will know), but spends most of the time keeping them in hiding. Even once we know what they are they still aren’t shown or do anything. It isn’t until the last 10 minutes that anything interesting happens.
I am reluctant to go into this, because what I am about to suggest is pretty much a different movie and it goes into the territory of ‘well you didn’t like this movie you wanted a whole different movie you can’t blame this movie for that’, but I am going to do it. The problem with Apollo 18 isn’t just the screenwriting, but also the execution. Here’s how to ‘fix’ them both.
Make the movie interesting. We already know there are aliens. Let’s get into the aliens and where they come from and explore that world more. The moon is a pretty uneventful place. No one wants to watch them walking on the moon for an hour doing nothing. Give the aliens more to do. Give the astronauts more to do. Expand on everything. Perhaps the astronauts find a hidden moon base? Maybe its human built and very secret? Maybe it’s alien built? Have a sense of adventure. You can still disguise it as Found Footage.
Here’s the problem with Apollo 18 on a visual level. It has nothing to show. I get that it had a low budget but a small space craft and very plain looking moon sets are the only two things you will be looking at for the movie. That’s not interesting. Conveniently placing camera where they can’t see anything is frustrating. Just because this is a Found Footage movie doesn’t mean you can’t try to be fun and exciting.
In Conclusion, Apollo 18 is not only a bad Found Footage movie, it is an extremely boring movie with one or two jump scares that include zooming in real close to something and something else popping into frame and a loud noise. It’s a horror movie with no suspense. It’s an adventure movie with no adventure. It’s an alien movie without the aliens. It not only has no drive to strive for anything more than what it is, it isn’t good at what it’s trying to do either.
I am an advocate for Found Footage movies. I was kind of looking forward to this movie, and willing to give it more than a chance. I was not mad. I was not (very) disappointed. I was just EXTREMELY bored and COMPLETELY uninterested.
Final Grade: F