The crowded Labor Day weekend box office includes a mishmash of end-of-summer fare – some junk (Shark Night 3D), some attempts at awards bait (The Debt), even a long-delayed sex comedy (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy), but it also includes The Weinstein Company’s shoved around and mostly forgotten Apollo 18. The film’s marketing has hinged on making viewers believe that the film is “real” and crafted from “found footage,” but to pretty dubious results. I’m still not entirely convinced that Apollo 18 is an actual movie, much less one made up of real footage (and I say that as someone who knows people watching the movie as I type this).
But despite all of TWC’s attempts to turn the film into an actually buzzed-about project, it looks like at least one faction of people involved with the production are hellbent on denying that the film is even remotely real – unfortunately, that faction is no less than NASA. Oops!
NASA, however, is not just a bunch of cinematic killjoys. Last year alone, they collaborated on a vast number of space-themed entertainment, including almost 100 documentaries, 35 television shows, and 16 feature films. Apollo 18 was, at one point, just one of those collaborations, but now the space agency is chucking it out with the rest of the space trash, with Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations, telling the LA Times, “Apollo 18 is not a documentary…The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. We were minimally involved with this picture. We never even saw a rough cut. The idea of portraying the Apollo 18 mission as authentic is simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps a bit of a Blair Witch Project strategy to generate hype.”
The film’s trailer seems to have foretold this sort of denial, by announcing “In 1972, the United States sent two astronauts on a secret mission to the moon. Despite decades of denial by NASA and the Department of Defense, classified footage of the mission was leaked to the media.” Clever, Weinsteins, very clever.
But despite the attempts to make Apollo 18 come across as some sort of mix of documentary and found footage (and those are still some mighty weak attempts), it’s hard to deny a litany of facts that prove the movie is just that, a movie. Fact one? It has a screenplay, from Brian Miller, who won a screenwriting contest launched by Timor Bekmambetov. Fact two? It was directed by Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. Fact three? It filmed in Canada. So the film has a script and a director and a filming location. Oh, yeah, definitely a found footage film. Definitely.
When it comes to fake space stuff, I’ll stick to that delicious ice cream in a bag.