In an official statement that will surely sadden the days of the be-tinfoil-hatted masses, NASA has clarified that the Dimension Films movie Apollo 18, which opened today, is not, in fact, a documentary but a fictional movie made by movie people. While it had some involvement, as it oftentimes does when someone wants to make a movie about space, there was never an Apollo 18 mission and there is no secret footage pertaining to it. Remember that time Fargo said it was based on true events? And then it wasn’t? It’s like that, guys. NASA promises you.
Indeed, the marketing strategy for Apollo 18 has been focused on a documentary-style “discovery of lost footage” about the NASA mission “they didn’t want exposed to the public.” It’s something that turned a little $20,000-budget flick called The Blair Witch Project into one of the biggest box office successes of all time (in 1999). However, as intriguing as the “footage” is, NASA did not want anyone (read: anyone who is stupid) being misled by what was meant to look like authentic footage. So they released an official statement. They actually felt the need to do this.
“Apollo 18 is not a documentary,” Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations, told the Los Angeles Times. “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.”
Ulrich even went on to invoke the Blair Witch strategy to further drive the point home that Apollo 18 is not a real Apollo mission.
So, no: Despite the proclamation in the trailer that “[d]espite decades of denial by NASA and the Department of Defense, classified footage of the mission was leaked to the media,” no such footage is going to suddenly be revealed by the production company that brought you the Scream franchise. If Dimension Films cannot propel Jon Stewart into horror movie stardom with The Faculty, it cannot show you real footage of a lost NASA mission to the Moon. It’s just the way it is.