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Bad moon rising

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'Apollo 18' offers different kind of thriller

When you hear about a film's release date being pushed back multiple times despite being completed, it raises an eyebrow. It's the same thing when you hear about a film not being screened in advance for critics. And if both of these scenarios apply to the same film?

It's not looking good.

Such is the case with "Apollo 18," a science fiction thriller born of the "found footage" genre. The movie purports to have been edited together from 84 hours of mysterious confidential NASA recordings uploaded to a conspiracy website.

The movie is the story of Apollo 18, a top-secret mission to the moon. As you may recall, the last Apollo mission was 17 - or so they would have us believe. According to the film, astronauts Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen, "Miss Potter"), Ben Anderson (Warren Christie, TV's "Alphas") and John Grey (Ryan Robbins, "Wrecked") are dispatched on a top-secret mission to the moon. However, when the astronauts arrive, they discover that all is not as it seems.

A series of increasingly inexplicable and dangerous events unfold around them. Walker and Anderson find themselves trapped on the lunar surface, cut off from all communication and unable to discern exactly what is happening around them.

As I am both a sci-fi fan and a bit of a conspiracy nut, this movie would have had to be a complete turkey for me not to enjoy it. It had a lot going for it. The idea of a moon mission enmeshed in intrigue is a good one. The conceit is well-realized; all of the film's footage is made to resemble surveillance camera images and handheld 8 MM film. The film's mission takes place in 1974 and the whole thing definitely has a 70s feel - the vibe is very period.

That said, there are problems here. The performances are serviceable, but not much beyond that. The editing choices make the film a bit more jagged than it needs to be. And the overall pace of the story lags. There are a couple of nitpicky science things that bothered me, too, but that's likely just me.

Those faults could easily be more than enough to prevent someone from enjoying this movie. I certainly recognize that, but at the same time, I really enjoyed this film. For me, the idea was enough; I was willing to overlook the film's obvious flaws because I could see what this film wanted to be rather than what it was.

Unfortunately, this film just isn't strong enough to hold the interest of audiences beyond its target demographic, which is really too bad for such a relatively ambitious attempt. Still, after half a dozen changes in release date and the studio's embargo on pre-release reviews, we probably should have seen it coming.

3 out of 5

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 13:54

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