This Friday, the hotly anticipated summer flick Apollo 18 finally hits theaters. Of course, it’s somewhat unclear as to why this release is “hotly” anticipated, given that the studio has been remarkably tightlipped about such trivial things as the basic premise of the film. However, one thing we do know about it is that it’s a “documentary-style” film that tells the story of a big government conspiracy to hide the truth about what really happened on the Apollo 18 mission to the moon.
This, at least, should provide a little hope for movie buffs, because if there’s one thing a good suspenseful thriller needs, it’s a convoluted conspiracy. After all, no one wants to watch a movie where the government is helpful, honest and forthcoming; where giant corporations abide by the law and are unwilling to commit treason for the sake of profit; or where a race of aliens is simply “passing through,” with no intention of annihilating our species so they can take over our planet. No, we want to watch movies about villainous criminal syndicates and cabals of rich old men who secretly control the world so that, even subconsciously, our brains can think, “hah, I knew it.” Because it’s a relief to know all the crappy stuff in life is someone else’s fault.
So if Apollo 18 is any good at all, chances are it will be because there’s a good conspiracy propping up an otherwise weak premise. And if this is the case, the film will be keeping good company. There are lots of films driven, if not propped up, by ridiculously convoluted conspiracies.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most convoluted movie conspiracies of all time, so you can better appreciate where I’m coming from.
Movie conspiracies about covert CIA operations and corrupt police officers are a dime a dozen. So in that regard, Above the Law isn’t all that special. It’s just a movie about how the CIA is selling crack in order to finance its illegal black ops around the globe. All in all, pretty standard Hollywood material. But what really sets this conspiracy flick apart from the pack is the presence of one Mr. Steven Seagal. And his presence is required because you know the only way this CIA drug conspiracy was going to be brought down was with the help of a Chicago cop who just happens to be a former CIA agent and kung fu master.
This movie isn’t based on your typical conspiracy, its primary distinction being the fact that both the audience and the guy being conspired against are, to some extent, “in on it” the whole time.
Uberwealthy banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglass) is given a really unusual gift by his eccentric brother Conrad (Sean Penn). It’s a gift certificate for “the game.” Nick doesn’t know what the game entails, only that he must be subjected to numerous psychological and physiological tests before it can begin. But it seems the game is actually a ruse designed to get all his money. Soon Van Orton is broke and on the run, trying to figure out who the hell is trying to kill him—a typical conspiracy film scenario. Yet with this film, I really don’t want to give away to much, because I fear many people haven’t seen it. So let’s just say that, while it is a thrilling story, it’s hard to believe the premise is possible at all. (Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?)
Every film buff knows the plot of this movie. A platoon of American soldiers is captured by the Soviets during the Korean war. While the soldiers are in Soviet custody, one of them is brainwashed so that, whenever he sees a queen of diamonds playing card, he will obey any order given. After a successful demonstration of the full potential of this brainwashing, the Commies release the guy so he can go back to America and be their patsy. And the worst part is, in America he’s under the control of his own mother, who is one of the real spies her Joe McCarthy-like husband is always warning his fellow Americans about. Of course, the Communist conspiracy is eventually thwarted, but not before a bunch of bad stuff goes down. As for the nature of the conspiracy itself, while I’m sure it is convenient to have secret agents doing your bidding from the heart of your enemy’s territory, I really wonder whether having a brainwashed assassin would be worth all the trouble. If you really wanted somebody dead, there’s probably an easier way. Plus, I’d take one really nasty guy in full control of his capacities over ten hypnotized assassins any day.