Apollo 18, a movie hybrid of horror and science fiction is stirring up a lot of interest. Your intrepid reporter decided to see what the fuss was about. Here is a brief review and my thoughts on the movie’s accuracy.

Image of Apollo 11 LM

Look behind you! The Apollo 11 crew were not afraid of marauding Moonbugs! (image credit: NASA)

 

Well, I splashed out the price of a movie ticket and went to see Apollo 18 in a semi-deserted cinema last night. Briefly (and spoiler free), it’s not a great movie but it’s not terrible and I liked it.  It’s certainly a worthy Apollo movie. The actors do a good job (Warren Christie who plays  LMP Ben Anderson was born in Belfast of all places) , it looks fine and although the notion of a secret Apollo mission is completely implausible, the script is aware of this and at least tries to cover up some of the holes enough for me to suspend my disbelief. Thankfully it has none of the “torture porn” feel that make so many recent horror movies unwatchable to me (there is some modest body horror if you’re squeamish) and there are some genuinely unsettling scenes. Just imagine waking up in your Lunar Module, parked on the utterly dead Moon, you look out the window and you see the flag you planted the previous day is gone! I don’t think I’d be very calm after that!

On the negative side, it is a 45 minute story stretched out to twice that length; there are also scenes very similar to other “found footage” movies, notably the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. There is a bit too much wobbly camera stuff and there is one massive gaping hole in the plot.

In the rest of this article I’ll discuss some of the interesting technical stuff in the movie with spoilers so if you haven’t seen this movie you may want to stop reading here.

Image of A11 flag

The flag planted by Apollo 11’s crew stayed in place…until it was blown away by the blast from the departing Ascent Stage’s rocket motor (Image Credit: NASA)

 

The Project Apollo technology, the Lunar Module exterior and interior and spacesuits is very well depicted; this is especially impressive when you consider the film’s tiny budget. The Soviet LK lander looks pretty authentic too (maybe the vast army of Russian special effect technicians helped). However the Lunar Rover Vehicle looks too small and it seems a bit simplified from the real design. It is pleasing that the film makers at least tried hard for an authentic look.

There is no way you could pass of a Saturn 5 lunar launch as an unmanned satellite launch. Thousands of space buffs would point out the Apollo spacecraft complete with Launch Escape System in the days taken to transport the rocket to the pad and prepare it for flight. They would also note that the blast off was during a lunar launch window. Around the world amateur astronomers and radio enthusiasts would be aware there was a crew on its way to the Moon. Based on later developments in the story, I think you have to assume that the Soviets were actively colluding with the DoD mission planners (there is no way that the Soviets could have disguised a N1/LK lunar mission, as a “routine satellite launch” from Western intelligence agencies).  The idea of siting surveillance gear to observe the USSR on the Moon sounds, and is, daft but it was genuinely considered a worthwhile goal by some in the Pentagon in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Rather than some boxes of electronics, this would have needed a major military establishment on our satellite, and this was indeed planed (see Project Lunex and Project Horizon) but of course never happened.

An Apollo landing at the Moon’s South Pole is impossible. There were many factors governing where and when an mission could land and more importantly still there was insufficient propellant to put the combined CSM and LM into orbits significantly inclined to the Moon’s equator. Only landing sites between  45° E and 45° W longitude were accessible.

What about the monsters? Well I’m no biologist but the notion of organisms that not only can scuttle around in both the extreme cold and vacuum of the Moon and in the human environments of spacecraft and spacesuits but also successfully parasitise and prey on humans seems very unlikely. (If they evolved naturally that is, perhaps something else designed them…gosh I think I feel a sequel coming on…) Any biologists want to comment?

As for the disappearing Moon rocks, yes, that is absolutely true. NASA was not obliged to track those given away and many have been lost and stolen over the past forty years. Investigator JR Gutheinz has written about his personal search for some of these samples.  I wonder if he has seen Apollo 18!

Oh, and how did the crew’s film get home?


20 Comments

Leon Baradat · September 18, 2018 at 05:02

My thoughts on Apollo 18 are similar to yours. The movie got the technical aspects surprisingly right! The astronaut describing it as a “Proton-LK” (IIRC) is even probably meta-right, since the Soviet space program was secret and a 1970s astronaut couldn’t have been expected to get everything about it right. Calling it an “LK” at all is a big deal. On the other hand, the space beasties don’t ring true. Critters that evolved to live in space, but can function just fine in atmosphere? That are entirely alien (not even as closely related to us as an ameba; they’d probably have a completely different chemistry) but can prey on humans? It almost seemed more like paranoia than horror.

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Nicholas · November 7, 2016 at 06:29

APOLLO 18, a horrific but interesting film.

If somehow a mission was launched, it would seem more plausible that the crew got infected by some kind of virus. But Moon Spiders? Gimme a break! Had the crew gotten infected by some kind of virus — perhaps something mutated from being left behind at earlier mission, i.e. contamination of some kind. Even so, I doubt the Astronauts would’ve been denied a return home. Rather, they would’ve been placed in quarantine and studied ad. infinitum upon their return.

Another thing that bothered me was how the Russian LM could dock with the US CM, if indeed it did. Unless the Russians copied the American designs exactly, this would have been impossible, as would reading the buttons written with the Cyrillic alphabet. Maybe the buttons were located in the same places as in the Apollo LM…

All in all, not a bad film, it had it’s moments. The quasi-authenticity was pretty good, as we’re certain details. Hadn’t it been for the ridiculous Lunar Arachnid critters, the movie would have been much more believable.

☆☆☆ of ☆☆☆☆☆ possible

Black Butler · December 19, 2014 at 04:17

Doing a school project for this and I am having trouble finding out about the real Apollo 18. Please help.

James · July 18, 2012 at 04:55

I mean the Apollo 18 mission.

James · July 18, 2012 at 04:54

Yes it did come from the Deleted and Alternate Scenes from the DVD. Well the way I look at it that since this movie was based on “found footage” that it would make sense that someone did survive the Apollo 10 mission. I was reviewing my DVD at the end when the LK was coming towards the CM at a fast rate, that Ben Anderson had mumbled but not loud enough so John could here Ben saying “Forget about me, John. Get outta here.”
The biggest part that is not in the movie is when the LK hits the side of the CM with a “bang (impact collision), but yet the film cuts off and there was no sound of an explosion. If the CM had an explosion it would have been heard during the movie before the film had cut off but I don’t hear it in the movie. I do have this distinct hunch that the CMP must have survived or something happened that was not shown. I know this is what alot of people are wondering about what has been cut off at this particular part and so am I.

James · July 15, 2012 at 02:56

I know that this movie is fiction, but I wonder what happened to the CMP if he returned home? I had watched a special feature and from what I learned is that he did talk to the man in a whiteroom when CMP returned home.

    admin · July 16, 2012 at 10:17

    Hmm, I had assumed the CMP perished in the collision (hence my incomprehension of how the film was returned to Earth). Perhaps you saw a deleted scene from an alternative ending?

James · July 15, 2012 at 01:02

I’ve seen this movie as well and there are points I’m not clear with.
In regards to the Russian astronaut I wondered how he died. Later on when the LMP is in the LK and is in orbit to do a rendezvous (meaning a spacewalk) with the CM, that I know the LK and hit the side of the CM then the film had cut off. In the special features it showed the CMP talking with the DoD agent in a room.
I really don’t get this and did the CMP actually did survive or not.
I’m so stumped by this and if the CMP did not make it back home, what really happened to him?

Mehmet Ali Özdemir · January 30, 2012 at 20:29

Web address for my comment 6 above http://apollo18movie.net/cosmonauts/index.php/i/img_7769

    admin · January 30, 2012 at 21:17

    Hi, thank you for making me aware of these facts. It’s a pleasant to have so well-informed a visitor!

Mehmet Ali Özdemir · January 30, 2012 at 20:27

About the oft-alleged factual error of this film, that an Apollo vessel is not capable to land at to lunar poles:
1- Mark astronaut Walker’s some initial comments on the lunar soil “the sun is LOW over the horizon”. Low, not ON the horizon. This is also consistent with long but not infinitely long shadows throughout the film.
2- Moon’s axial tilt compared to the ecliptic is only 1.54 degrees (compare with that of Earth which is 23.44 degrees) That means, the sun would be ON the horizon at exact lunar poles.
3- Hence, the landing poit of Liberty is NOT at the exact Lunar south pole but at a high enough altitude to be called “at pole” as a rough estimation.
4- Apollo LM is capable to land at latitudes higher than 45 degrees, it is just not possible to have a free return trajectory at such high altitudes. A free return trajectory is a precautionary orbit which was discarded after initial Apollo landings.
5- See figure 22 (Lunar Landing Site Chart) on the following page, marked by the red line. As is seen, Apollo LM could land close to the poles, however at increasingly narrowing margin of longitudes. http://history.nasa.gov/afj/launchwindow/lw1.html
6- Examine the following document in a page in the web site of the film. Especially item three which reads “Modify [censored] using fittings supplied by [censored] to accommodate high altitude polar orbit from longitude [censored] latitude [censored].

Evidently Apollo 18, being a military mission, had modified hardware for the requirements of its peculiar objectives.

I can hardly see any historical or scientific inaccuracy in this film. Details look very realistic and exciting to watch. In my opinion, it is not only a good science fiction but also a good historical fiction.

tina · January 4, 2012 at 16:01

I believe some of the movie is fake but some of i beleive is real. I can’t understand how the film got back to earth.Or is their cameres on earth seeing everthing they are seeing while in space or on the moon?????

Garcia[ESP] · December 29, 2011 at 18:46

Oh, and how did the crew’s film get home?

In the movie, the guy at Houston says to john in Freedom that he recieves information from Liberty. And with the moon landings, we got live footage from the astronauts, thats how we got the crew’s film.

    admin · January 3, 2012 at 09:48

    Hi, thanks for the comment. I’m not 100% certain that all the movie footage we see in Apollo 18 is meant to be video broadcast back to Earth. I think that some times the crew are shown using the DAC (Data Acquisition Camera) which used 16mm film. There is no way too that the Apollo TV camera could have returned a signal from the moving Russian lander. But it is just a movie!

PsychoDude · September 8, 2011 at 02:37

I saw the movie and was highly sceptical of it, a lot of it seemed realistic but one has to doubt things AND keep an open mind when looking at this. looking at the facts, footage, and the data shown in the movie… I’m inclined to believe it’s entirely fictitious. The information and “facts” there are accurate, but the logic and physics would say otherwise. SPOILER ALERT!
it shows the creatures changing from a random rock into a form of spider-like creature, but as a rock it “breaks” apart the stone to reveal true self, but but magically goes to the EXACT shape as previously? I also doubt they would have any interest in life. If they had been able to survive in a crater, at -??? degrees, with no form of energy getting in one would assume they have their own independent method of both obtaining the energy they need, obtaining the materiel for their forms, and being able to reproduce. just these observations alone put the film beyond just a reasonable doubt. then again, this is just an opinion based off what I saw, thought, and remembered.

Apollo 18: the truth | Astronotes · October 15, 2013 at 03:08

[…] (NB if you are looking for a discussion of the realism of the movie Apollo 18, see my review.) […]

Soviet Moonlanding project | Astronotes · April 29, 2013 at 07:43

[…] The LK, the USSR’s equivalent of NASA’s Lunar Module, was being developed separately and was relatively successful despite an overly complex control system. This small vehicle was designed to travel to and from lunar orbit and the Moon’s surface entirely automatically with zero input from its occupant. The cosmonaut was simply a passenger. This design philosophy is common to all Soviet (and Russian) manned spacecraft. What would have happened should it have descended towards an unforeseen field of boulders (as happened with Apollo 11) does not bear thinking about. Four LKs were secretly put through a successful programme of unmanned test flights in low Earth orbit in the early 1970s. Today LK prototypes appear as intriguing public exhibits  or even appear in  Hollywood movies. […]

My Homepage · January 15, 2012 at 05:03

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