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'Apollo 18' lands a little short on this mission

'Apollo 18' lands a little short on this mission
In "Apollo 18," we learn the 1972 Apollo 17 mission was not the last of the moon visits. The titular one, a covert Department of Defense exercise, actually happened.


There are those who believe that if we landed on the moon at all (wink, wink, "Capricorn One"), what Neil Armstrong actually said was, "That's one small step for man, one giant … whoa, make that one very giant … creeping … thing on top of the lunar module!"

"Apollo 18" director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego assembled this chilling documentary from some recently discovered video. The 1972 Apollo 17 mission, we learn, was not the last of the moon visits. The titular one, a covert Department of Defense exercise, actually happened.

Sworn to secrecy, mission commander Walker and pilots Anderson and Grey returned America to the moon in 1974 to deploy a defense system to detect a Soviet missile launch. Assembled footage from various NASA cameras set up in the lunar lander, the orbiting command module, and on the astronauts themselves tells the story of what happened next.

The team stumbles on a set of boot prints and follows them to the remnants of a prior Soviet expedition. Houston do we have a problem? "Pay no attention to the dead cosmonaut in the crater and continue with your mission," they’re instructed.

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The mission hardware, however, appears to attract a parasitic alien (though to be fair, wouldn’t *we* be the aliens?) which attacks one of the men. The other takes sanctuary in the Soviet lunar lander and tries to pilot it up to the command module.

Fearing a mass outbreak, Houston orders the contaminated module to be abandoned, but the ships collide before the moral predicament is adjudicated. The official statement: Apollo 18 never happened and Walker, Anderson and Grey died in various terrestrial accidents.

That’s their story and everyone, including producer Bob Weinstein, is sticking to it.

And it’s also the saving grace for a "documentary" that is an otherwise rather unpersuasive conspiracy theory. That it never wavers in its premise is itself interesting. The "found footage" retro cinematography, the credits, the promotional backstory — all of it gives this, what I hope is a hoax, a very authentic flavor. Much of it courtesy of NASA who loaned actual video.

Still, it takes more than look and feel. This one’s plot leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, why did the mission even take place? To attract the aliens? Confirm their existence? Destroy them?

I suppose to a conspiracy freak, such holes are only more evidence of a cover-up, but as entertainment, I hoped that this one would go beyond the gimmickry and give us something to either leave us thinking or at least shaking. It did neither.

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