Full review available at the Herald.

I was looking forward to Apollo 18. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now–its original release date was something like April 22, I think, and somewhere around that time, I saw a trailer for a movie where a secret moon mission was investigating something strange we’d found there. Oh man! I thought. That concept is exactly the kind of thing I would love! I can’t wait to see this. Then, a few seconds later, a logo appeared and I realized it was fucking Transformers: Bark at the Moon.

Then something bizarre happened. A couple weeks after that, I saw a trailer for another movie revolving around a secret moon mission. It was as if the universe had yanked my secret-moon-mission football away from me only to say “Just kidding, here it is after all. Have fun!” Amazing! When does something like that happen to you? Never, that’s when.

Then I went to see Apollo 18. In the ultimate Lucy-football move, it was worse than Dark of the Moon.

It isn’t immediately obvious that Apollo 18 will be shitty. Not to me, anyway. I find this is true of a lot of bad movies (the big ones, anyway). Generally, as I’m watching something that turns out to be terrible, I’m thinking “Well, this hasn’t really grabbed me, but maybe the second half will do something with the kinda boring stuff that’s happened so far.” Then everything shoots off the rails and the movie’s total badness becomes clearer than the void of space, which is as clear as you can get because it is a vacuum. Space.

In this case, signs of Apollo 18‘s suck didn’t appear to me until they reached the moon. That’s when director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallago decided that scenes are not something that should be coherent. I get that it’s found footage from the ’70s that was recovered from the inky void of space/the dusty, windless surface of the moon, but I also get that I am a human being whose eyes have a hard time making sense of grainy, distorted, jumpy, cut-happy sequencing.

Of course, it doesn’t matter so much, because it turns out there just isn’t that much to see. SPOILERS to follow.

What’s on the moon? Rock-monsters. Small stones that are actually crab-bug things that burrow inside one of the astronauts, give him a plague, and make him insane. A lot of people have ragged on this concept, which okay, but it really is no less silly than giant fucking truck-people from beyond the stars showing up to stage a war on planet Earth. On the sci-fi silliness scale, I give rock-monsters on the moon about a 6.5. Maybe a 7. Faintly ridiculous, sure, but not irredeemably so. I mean, they’re not actually rocks. They just have space-camouflage.

But we learn essentially zero about them. Where did they come from? Have they always been there? Do they hibernate when food sources don’t come along? Because in the 4-billion-odd-year history of the moon, there have only been what, like a couple of guys who actually walked around on it. There may also have been a monkey at some point. Unless these things eat gray, potential prey sources are a little scarce. As for the particulars of the space madness they introduce to one of the crew, or who the crewmembers are themselves, all of that is pretty much left up to the imagination. It’s like the creators came up with the whole crab-rocks on the moon idea, looked at each other, and said “Well, that’s it then. Let’s roll!”

Thing is, you don’t even need much if any exposition. Cloverfield hardly begins to answer anything about its Manhattan-stomping monster. But we know plenty about the characters. And the pacing and story beats of the script are impeccable (whatever you think of the movie itself).

Apollo 18 has neither material nor execution. It’s just there. If “there” is ever “on your TV,” you should probably turn it off.

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