Apollo 18 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Actually, I should say that the film sometimes appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, as it uses a variety of frame sizes. Most of the film looks like it’s about 1.50:1; some shots narrow to 1.33:1, while others do broaden to 1.78:1, but much of the flick resides in between those ratios.
Why does it vary ratios so much? I have no idea. I suspect it’s to communicate changes in cameras; since the alleged “found footage” is supposed to come from a mix of sources, the varying ratios allows them to show some differentiation. None of it makes any sense, though; I think the original material would’ve been 1.33:1, so the flick should’ve either gone with that the whole time or simply cropped everything to 1.78:1. The constant ratio changes become an unnecessary distraction.
I found it awfully tough to rate the image of Apollo 18 because in an objective sense, it looked terrible. Of course, it was supposed to look bad, as it was meant to come from decades-old material shot under poor circumstances. Plenty of footage was intentionally soft and fuzzy, and we saw dull colors, flat blacks and muddy shadows. We also saw lots of specks, marks, debris and scratches put onto the footage to create the illusion of old, neglected film.
All of these made the movie ugly to watch on a consistent basis, but that’s how it was intended to appear. The DVD seemed to replicate the source material in a pretty accurate manner, one that I’d find it hard to think Blu-ray would improve. After all, if the movie’s supposed to be messy and soft, how would a higher-resolution format make it better?
In terms of my grade, I went with a “C”. That could be “C” for “Cop-out”, as the transfer would deserve a higher mark if I simply graded relative to the way the image replicates the source.
But I don’t like to grade solely based on fidelity. I understand arguments to rate that way, as I can see why it doesn’t seem fair to give a DVD a “C” picture grade if it faithfully represents the source.
However, I think that most readers expect an “A” picture mark to represent something that looks great in an objective sense. If I give a flick like Apollo 18 an “A”, many may be disappointed to see what an ugly mess it actually is.
This is an inherent flaw in something like the letter grades, but I feel the “C” for Apollo 18 is a reasonable compromise. Objectively, the flick looks terrible, but the DVD replicates it in an appropriate manner.
I don’t need to be as subjective with the generally good Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Apollo 18, though I’m always annoyed by “found footage” movies that offer multichannel audio. Logically the material should’ve remained essentially monaural since it’s supposed to come from the source cameras. Indeed, much of it should be silent, as I’d suspect that footage shot in the way depicted here would lack audio.
However, as was the case with many other flicks in the genre, the filmmakers decided to take moderate auditory liberties and open up the soundfield. Most of the audio focused on general ambience and added a layer of creepiness throughout the film. Some action sequences brought out more prominent sounds; in particular, the mission’s launch and some other spacecraft-related bits opened up the track. Still, the emphasis remained on tension along with the occasional jolt.
Audio quality seemed good. Speech was natural and concise, and effects showed solid range. Again, the launch had a lot of oomph behind it, and the other louder bits boasted nice dimensionality. Though this wasn’t a killer mix, it was pretty good.
When we move to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and editor Patrick Lussier. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/editing choices, camerawork and visual issues, archival footage and attempts at realism, effects and technical considerations, cast and performances, sets and effects, and other challenges.
Though packed with more praise than I’d like, Lopez-Gallego and Lussier still manage to cover the film well. As expected, they concentrate on technical areas, but they give us a broad enough discussion to keep our interest. While the track can be a bit bogged down by happy talk, it works pretty well as a production overview.
16 Deleted and Alternate Scenes fill a total of 20 minutes, 26 seconds. Given that the final film’s so dull, I doubted we’d get anything interesting here, and I was mostly correct. We find minor additions to training and a few more character beats, but little that delivers useful material. A scene of one astronaut’s debriefing is the only moderately compelling piece in this collection.
We also find four Alternate Endings. These occupy a total of four minutes, 42 seconds and show different ways of killing the same character. None of them seem particularly interesting.
The disc opens with ads for Scream 4 and The Zombie Diaries 2: World of the Dead. No trailer for Apollo 18 shows up here.
Although I hoped to find a tight, scary “found footage” effort in Apollo 18, instead I got a slow, silly film that lacked the believability required for the genre. Only its basic concept seems interesting; everything else about the movie flops. The DVD comes with appropriate visuals, lively audio and a few useful supplements. Apollo 18 ends up as a boring disappointment.