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Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

It’s Mission to Mars Europa with found footage… and a hard Sci-fi edge.

Europa Report Poster

Plot Summary: Footage from a failed mission to discover life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa is used to answer the most important question in the universe…are we alone?

Somewhere between the classic Arthur C Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama and the Grand Tour novels by Ben Bova, I fell in love with the planets. Reading the vivid descriptions of their surface and atmosphere filled me with a sense of awe and wonder. In works like Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn, Bova brings us the planetary system- scaled up in its cosmic-magnitude. We are there to witness…miracles and to become tourists seeing sites and sights only meant for gods and angels.

Hard Sci-fi delivers the extraordinary in a believable fashion. We stay rooted to real-world physics and the limits of our material universe are not to be circumvented by techno-babble. We need to understand what we don’t understand. That pulls us in to the story and also pushes mankind out and to the dangerous reaches of space to find answers about us from them. Them is always the concept of life or intelligence. In movies like Mission to Mars and Red Planet, we find the discovery of life to be the central goal with numerous and unforeseen perils thrown in. A sub-title of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is “An epic drama of adventure and exploration”. That’s the idea of director Sebastian Cordero and screenplay writer Philip Gelatt. I had never seen any of their previous work so I bought in not knowing what to expect. I’m very glad I did.

I recently covered Apollo 18 -using the same style of found footage, with the viewer piecing together the entire story, which slowly paces towards a revealing climax. Where Apollo 18 was played for horror, Europa Report plays for hard. We have the familiar broken feeds, the camera failing at inopportune times and the constant glitches and even the prospect of being stranded a million miles from home.

Europa Report Space Walk scene

The cost of curiosity may be too high a price to pay

Command Crew

The crew is quite believable and we have actors fleshing out familiar characters with Sharlto Copley [District 9] and Michael Nyqvist [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009]. The hardware and footage feels authentic and that leads to a nice level of immersion. There’s a small moment of…upset when you find the crew ‘pushing it’ and your stomach knots up as you start thinking ‘get the hell outta there’. That reminds me of an episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk takes in an opinion from Bones McCoy who votes for survival. Kirk snaps on the P.A. and reminds everyone that theirs is a mission of discovery and personal safety is not part of the prime directive. If you can appreciate that attitude then you will enjoy the core theme of Europa Report. Mission to Mars dropped the space rock a bit with the overly done big-reveal ending. Europa Report avoids this by staying true to its hard Sci-fi roots and allowing small events to have major impact. If you enjoy your science fiction leaning more towards science and enjoy the journey that a well written novel takes you on, see Europa Report. It’s was certainly worth the trip for them and it is certainly worth the trip for you.

These are a few other reviewed movies that gave me a similar feeling.

Apollo 18 (although horror-themed)

Oblivion

Solaris

and Moon (2009)

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