'Apollo 18' fails to launch

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:08 PM ET

Houston, you have an image problem. But don't worry, Apollo 18 is here to give you a ham-handed PR boost.

For decades now, conspiracists have kept alive the theory that the Apollo moon landings were a fraud, filmed on Earth using Hollywood fakery.

But Apollo 18 teaches us that, even in 2011, faking a moon landing is far easier said than done.

The bottoming-out (I hope) of the this-really-happened fake doc genre that began with Blair Witch and has included Paranormal Activity and the ridiculous The Fourth Kind, Apollo 18 is posited as "found footage," edited into movie form of the secret 1974 moon mission they never meant us to know about.

I can only assume this movie is for people who know virtually nothing about the space program. For starters, where do you launch a Saturn 5 rocket -- the equivalent of hurtling the Chrysler Building into space -- where no one will notice? No explanation is offered.

There are other annoying things, like the communication between the lunar module Liberty and Mission Control. Radio signals take a second-and-change to reach Earth from the Moon and then have to make the return trip, which made conversation kind of truncated in the real Apollo missions. Instead, they talk as if they were in the same room, like a subspace exchange between Kirk and Starfleet Command.

I could go on. But needless to say, Apollo 18 is a pretty pale attempt at this-is-real (which obliges us to ask, why not make an actual fictional movie about these obviously fictional events, with decent FX?).

Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego showed real flair with some of his early work (his gripping, crazed sniper movie King of the Hill was like a first-person shooter video game). But everything about this crass exercise falls flat, particularly when the laconic astronauts have to get dramatic (reminding me at times of SCTV's spoof of Murder in the Cathedral performed by Apollo astronauts).


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The whole astronauts-get-ready-for-launch schmeer is so familiar by now (including the inevitable barbecue at the commander's house footage), that Apollo 18 skips past it, and has the LEM duo (uncredited, but reportedly played by Canadian actor Warren Christie and Brit Lloyd Owen) making their rough landing near the lunar south pole in a patch of rocks we later learn are something more than rocks (think the exomorphs from Alien in their Alaskan King Crab stage).

Hmm. So that's why their mission involves pitching a bunch of telemetry beacons (and apparently motion detectors) around the craft.

They also find an abandoned Soviet lunar module and a dead cosmonaut. This much you'll already know from the trailer.

There are hidden agendas aplenty, apparently, most of which still don't make sense by the movie's end -- which notes ominously that 800 pounds of moon rocks were brought to Earth, not all of which can be accounted for. Food for thought if you see a rock with legs walking around.

This film is rated PG


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