Historical fiction has an artificial authenticity that has the potential for excellent storytelling. It makes the audience wonder, could this really have happened? Where does fact end and fiction begin? Apollo 18 had all the potential to be a provocative, conspiracy-driven movie, but instead it failed to deliver. There were many more yawns than thrills.
The movie begins by telling us that the last officialU.S.mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972, but that two years later a covert lunar mission took place, the details of which have been secret until now. Footage was recovered from the landing, and that footage is the basis for the movie. The movie is shot “home video” style, adding a supposed air of realism. This usually works, except that the actor portraying Pilot Ben Anderson is so incredibly handsome that he looks more like a leading man than a real American astronaut. Anderson and two other astronauts make a trip to the moon, purpose somewhat unknown. The men can’t tell their families about the mission, and there will be no heroic widespread welcome for them upon their return. They seem content with anonymity, secure in the belief that they are serving their country. Two pilots will actually traverse the moon, while the third pilot remains aboard another vessel. It takes a long time for anything remotely interesting to happen in this movie. Sorry, just the sight of them walking on the moon was not cool enough for me. There was a constant sense of foreboding, but that wasn’t enough to stave off my boredom. Things finally got interesting when the two astronauts’ exploration of the moon revealed a set of foreign human footprints that do not much their space boots. Next they discover a crashed Russian space vehicle. They had no knowledge of Russian lunar activity, so they instantly are on high alert. Fearing the Russians may be prowling the moon at that very moment, they continue investigating. Deep inside a crater they find the corpse of a Russian cosmonaut. The whole time that they’ve been on the moon they have been hearing an odd screeching noise, some sort of feedback over the radio waves. They wonder if the strange noise could be related to the cosmonaut’s demise. They discover that a moon rock collected the day before seems to have a life of its own, and later one of them is seemingly attacked by one of the rocks, as it turns into an extra-terrestrial spider and imbeds itself in the astronaut’s body. When they re-board their vessel, Anderson attempts to extract the foreign object from his compatriot’s body. It appears to have turned back into a rock, similar to the one that they collected before. While all this is going on, Houston has reassured them that the feedback noise is not much cause for concern, and they aren’t sure what to make of Russian presence on the moon.
I’m going to end the re-cap there, because those are the highlights. To sum it all up, the Department of Defense sent the three astronauts to the moon as sacrificial lambs on an ill-fated recon mission. When they become infected by the extra-terrestrial spidery moon rock thingies, they are prohibited from returning to Earth and are left to die in space. Ok, what did we learn here? Not much. The astronauts were able to confirm that the Russians were there and that there is something on the moon that doesn’t take kindly to visitors. Was that worth sacrificing three American lives? It doesn’t seem like it. The payoff was weak, and it took an eternity to get there. I was dumb enough to think that The Blair Witch Project was real at first, and fortunately I didn’t make that mistake here. Apollo 18 had a great concept that could have made for a thought-provoking, eerie and unsettling movie. Instead, it was a boring, tedious affair resulting in a disappointing conclusion. I knew that I was supposed to feel sorry for the characters…but I just didn’t care. And the arachnid moon rocks? Lame! Save your money!
This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.