Jul 9, 2012

[Movies] Apollo 18 (2011)

The whole "found footage" sub-genre of movies (typically horror films at that) is getting rather old, in my opinion. As landmark as the original Blairwitch Project was in terms of shaking up a lot of our assumptions in terms of movie budgets, what was once a remarkable technique has fast become a cliche.

I guess what frustrates me more is how a lot of times the use of said technique tends to be mishandled in terms of which camera the director chooses to involve. More often than not we have directors breaking their own rules with respect to the found footage premise and resorting to magical cameras that take up more interesting angles and the like.

This movie didn't exactly excite me when the trailers first came out, but this past weekend felt a bit slow and I wasn't in the mood to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is the only new movie showing in theaters.

It wasn't too bad, I suppose, but at the very least it wasn't entirely boring.

I didn't get scared though.


Synopsis: Apollo 18 is a 2010/2011 science fiction horror movie directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego with a screenplay by Brian Miller. This was Gallego's first English-language movie.

It is December 1974 and the Apollo 18 mission has changed from a noble exploration mission to a convert operation under the Department of Defense (DoD). The mission team consist of Commander Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen), Lieutenant Colonel John Grey (Ryan Robbins), and Captain Ben Anderson (Warren Christie). The three have been tasked with installing detection equipment on the moon to help warn the US against ICBM attacks from the USSR.

John Grey remains in order about the command module while Nathan and Ben take the lunar module down to the surface to complete the mission. At first things seem to be going well enough in terms of their primary mission parameters but then a surprise discovery of a Soviet lander and a few other unusual incidents begins to alter the mission profile to some extent. And in time the crew begin to suspect that there may be more to this mission than initially expected.

Now at first I sort of enjoyed the look and feel of the movie given the efforts placed into making the footage appear appropriately dated and aged. While we've seen these same techniques in many movies, to have nearly the entire film done with this treatment initially had me excited to some degree. But then as the movie progressed, the various cameras felt more and more like a lousy way of handling things. The technique just got really old as the story progressed.

Or maybe what made me appreciate the treatment less and less was the overall pacing of the movie that just seemed to drag on and on. While I'm used to the slower pacing of horror movies, this one lacked the appropriate shock and surprise moments to keep the audience fully involved. And even when they did arrange for little scare moments, for one reason or another they failed to deliver the expected shock. And take note, I'm really, really bad with horror movies. Normally the slightest scares have me jumping out of my seat. Instead this one had me struggling to stay focused and figure out what the heck is going on.

Maybe it was the difficulty in understanding a lot of the audio that killed it. The lack of appropriate sound cues can take away from a movie, and this goes beyond the mere fact that the movie is set in the dead of space. It's not like the movie didn't have its share of musical cues and snippets of dialog - but they just didn't add the appropriate layer of shock and terror that you look for in a horror movie.

In the end I felt that all the effort placed into trying to make this movie feel like a true documentary of sorts by using less famous actors and the whole found footage bit is the very same thing that killed it. Because they focused too much on the gimmick instead of the story, we ended up with terribly shallow characters that were unable to hook the viewers into creating the kind of emotional ties needed to actually care about their future. And so we just go about the motions and wait for the end, not all that committed in terms of rooting for their success or failure.

Apollo 18 had an interesting enough premise but was poorly executed and lacked real spirit. Thus I can only give the movie a 1.5 shadows moving in the background out of a possible 5.



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