Documentary-style horror films, those with the “found footage” angle, are so old hat now that nobody should be confused as to their validity. But you never know, and there are possibly still some people who think “Blair Witch Project” and even the more recent “Paranormal Activity” are completely true. Might this also be the case with “Apollo 18,” the sci-fi/horror flick sold as a real UFO cover-up by NASA that’s opening tomorrow? Given that The Weinstein Company didn’t screen it for critics, there might not be enough written about “Apollo 18” in mainstream media to keep the gullible in check. Fortunately, NASA is attempting to get the word out, and I’m happy to oblige. The following clarification is from the Los Angeles Times:
“Apollo 18 is not a documentary,” said Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations. “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.”
Or, is this all just a part of the conspiracy? Obviously that’s what will now go through the minds of the believers. Why would NASA make such a point to refute this sci-fi movie and not “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which it provided full support for? Reportedly the space agency cooperated with more than 100 movies last year alone and hosts workshops for filmmakers to help them better understand the science of space travel (“Red Planet” is cited as another film not supported due to its wonky science). Or is it to keep them from thinking outside what the government wants them to know?
All silliness aside, the makers of “Apollo 18” did consult with a physicist named Stanton Friedman, who only adds fuel to the conspiracy theorists’ fire. Here’s what he has to say about the film, which even he hasn’t been allowed to watch yet:
“The scientific community doesn’t say anything about these missions, because, hey, we all know, we’re smart guys,” Friedman said. “One of the things the secret keepers take advantage of is ego. I’m not saying that this footage exists. I’m saying it’s possible that there’s a whole classified side to this and that it would make sense. I allow for that possibility.”
Though open to the plausibility of aliens, UFOs and many science fiction story lines, there is one Hollywood space trope Friedman rejects. “[Movies] have gotten many people to think NASA’s the greatest thing since peanut butter,” Friedman said. “I’m not sure they’ve done a good job of showing the total picture.”
I can’t keep up with how conspiracy theorists think, so I’m not sure what would be more suspicious for them, if NASA helped out with a film like this or not. They cooperated with Peter Hyams’ “Capricorn One,” for instance, and that was a thriller presenting the moon landing hoax theory as if it were true. Again, neither I nor many others have yet seen “Apollo 18,” and so maybe the aliens are really unbelievable, like “Cloverfield,” so even with the found footage format it’s fake enough for both smart and dumb, sane and crazy, trusting and skeptical.
Is anyone else at least more interested in the movie based on its mystery?
By the way, here are some other films that are NOT documentaries: “Death of a President”; TV’s “The Office”; and our favorite recent found footage movie, “Troll Hunter”