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Apollo 18 (Blu-ray Review)

26 Dec, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 12/27/11
Anchor Bay
Box Office $17.7 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated 'PG-13' for some disturbing sequences, and language.
Stars Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins.

Hollywood sure has been having fun the past few months fiddling with NASA history. First came the real Buzz Aldrin showing up in Transformers: Dark of the Moon to explain how the Apollo missions were all about exploring an alien spacecraft. On the heels of that howler comes Apollo 18, which is not a belated sequel to Apollo 13 but rather an exposé about a lost lunar mission that had been covered up by the government.

The concept behind Apollo 18 is a good one, if the execution leaves a little to be desired. The idea is that in 1974, two years after the final moon landing, the Department of Defense commissioned NASA for a top-secret lunar mission to supposedly deploy a missile detection system. Soon enough the astronauts learn the true focus of their mission, and things don’t go so smoothly after that. Their story is pieced together through long-buried archival footage recently discovered by conspiracy theorists.

Because it uses the conventions of the “found footage” genre, it’s easy enough to label the film as a Blair Witch Project in space (or Paranormal Activity in space, if you prefer, though the filmmakers disavow such comparisons). But the film has trouble padding out the premise to a feature-length running time, coming in at less than 75 minutes of actual story and more than 10 minutes of end credits.

The movie is most clever in playing around with the lesser-known aspects of the space race, such as designs for the aborted Russian manned lunar landing program. As a result the film will probably find a more appreciative audience with sci-fi and NASA buffs rather than horror fans.

The disc includes an informative commentary with director Gonzalo López-Gallego and editor Patrick Lussier, who ends up doing most of the talking. There’s also a gallery of deleted scenes and alternate endings that are interesting artifacts of the filmmaking process.

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