Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blu-ray Review: APOLLO 18 (2011)

APOLLO 18 (2011)
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: Blu-ray A, DVD 1
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 87mins
Video: 1080p 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Cast: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
Tagline: There's a reason we've never gone back to the moon.

Synopsis: Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 7, 1972, was the last manned mission to the moon. But two years later, in December of 1974, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

So, in this potentially intriguing spin on the found footage format we go where all half-decent ideas/franchises go to officially jump the shark - outer space! The film is said to be lost Department of Defense footage captured during the previously thought scrapped Apollo 18 mission depicting the supposedly real events during a covert mission. Set in 1974 following the cancellation of NASA's Apollo 18 mission the crew has just been informed that the mission is still a go but the parameters have changed. Now under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense Commander Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen), Lieutenant Colonel John Grey (Ryan Robbins) and Captain Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie) are to go to the Moon and place some snazzy early warning detectors on the surface of the moon that will alert the United States of incoming missile launches should we come under attack from our then Cold War nemesis the USSR.

Once orbiting the moon Grey remains in orbit aboard the Freedom Command/Service module while Walker and Anderson land on the moon in the lunar module Liberty. They plant one of the detectors and proceed to collect samples of moon rocks and return to lunar module. That night while sleeping they begin to hear odd noise emanating from outside and their radio frequencies start picking up strange interference. The two men become increasingly paranoid by the eerie events, even more so when they discover footprints on the surface of the moon which lead them to the corpse of a dead cosmonaut in a crater, plus a Soviet lander located not too far away from their own. Very strange considering the Soviets have supposedly never step foot on the moon.

Weirdness aside the men complete their mission but as they prepare to exit from the surface of the Moon the Liberty suffers a system failure upon launch. A panicked inspection reveals exterior damage to Liberty and non-human tracks which leads the men to consider the existence of an extraterrestrial threat. Sure enough there are some sneaky aliens on the moon, rock like crustaceans that look every bit like moon rocks and whom don't seem to appreciate the astronauts presence there.

That's pretty much it, it's pretty simplistic stuff and I really enjoyed the concept and execution of the film, especially since I was a NASA nut as a kid, it really appealed to my sense childhood awe of the space program and I really appreciated how authentic the film appeared simulating retro film stock to varying degrees of success, the set design and attention to detail really quite impressive but the smash cuts and editing took me out of the film from time to time. The landscape scenes of the surface of the moon are equally impressive, capturing the isolation and coldness of space, the desolation of the surface of the moon, it's all here on screen and rather well done.

The acting is pretty decent, our three main protagonists are rock steady and while I think some of the decisions and motivations are laughable that really goes back to the script and is not a true reflection on the talent, they're really selling what they've been given and the paranoia and growing desperation really comes across in their performances.

The DVD and Blu-ray feature a selection of special features including a director/editor commentary that's a very good listen, alternate endings and deleted scenes plus a digital copy of the film.

Special Features:
- Feature Commentary With Director Gonzalo López-Gallego and Editor Patrick Lussier
- Deleted And Alternate Scenes
- Alternate Endings
- DVD + Digital Copy

Verdict: Overall the film is a super-slow burn wrought with some nice paranoiac elements and while I found the retro-space, Cold War and distrust of government themes quite entertaining overall I felt pretty lukewarm about the film. It's an interesting idea, it's decently executed but it just didn't win  me over though it kept me decently entertained even if I wasn't particularly thrilled. I give APOLLO 18 a medium recommend, this is a fun renter for sure, Netflix or Redbox it. 3 outta 5