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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
DIRECTED BY
Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
SCREENPLAY
Brian Miller, Cory Goodman
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
90 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Dimension Films

 "Apollo 18" Review 
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The only thing worse than an inept filmmaker is a lazy one.

Apollo 18 is a lazily made film, a film that projects itself to be yet the latest in the "found footage" sub-genre in the realm of the thriller/horror world. However, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego never comes close to selling the whole "found footage" concept and Apollo 18 is only disturbing in how completely and utterly lacking it is in terms of chills, thrills or, for that matter, anything remotely interesting.

The film centers around the mission of Apollo 18, a secret space mission that "until now" has remained undocumented for reasons equating to national security and relating to, of course, the idea of life forms on the moon. As a "found footage" film supposedly developed from hundreds of hours of discovered footage, Apollo 18 doesn't concern itself with such trivialities as plot, character development or anything resembling cohesiveness.

This can work, at least modestly, such as in the Paranormal Activity films or Blair Witch Project. It can also be a complete and utter disaster if the script (and, yes, there is a "script") doesn't create a reason for audience "buy in" and the director doesn't find a way to maintain a sense of suspense and emotional investment. While the success of the Paranormal Activity films and Blair Witch Project is arguable, love 'em or hate 'em they at least managed to build some suspense and some level of emotional resonance.

There's nothing in Apollo 18 to give a damn about and not much reason to stick around for the film's 90 minute running time.

The film kicks off with fundamental intros to our trio of key players who will man the ill-fated (No, that's not a spoiler!) space mission. After the mostly irrelevant intros, we're off to space where I'm sure everybody involved is just absolutely sure we're going to be thrilled and chilled and claustrophobic as all get out as our astronauts encounter a deeply held NASA secret.

The performances are nondescript here, and the film's obligatory out of this world life forms are, to put it quite simply, completely disappointing. I've seen more frightening creatures while watching Fraggle Rock. While the lunar atmosphere can certainly be creepy, nobody here seems to be able to figure out how to best utilize this inherent creepiness for full effect. It's as if there's an assumption that the set-up itself is creepy enough - it's not.

It seems as if most films set in space, Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey immediately come to mind, have an almost reflective nature about them that capitalizes on both the awesomeness and the powerlessness of being in space. Rather than inspire awe or contemplation, Apollo 18 merely bores and plods along in what is easily one of the least exciting "thrillers" in quite some time.

Produced by Kazakh writer/director/producer Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), is by far the weakest entry on one of Fall 2011's weakest weekends. I mean, really, it's a sad statement when you get outshined by a 3-D shark flick. Jose David Montero's camera work has a few captivating moments, while Andrew Neskoromny's production design certainly manages to capture a decent atmosphere. Overall, however, Apollo 18 isn't just a secret mission but a mission easily forgotten.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  

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