Saturday, July 16, 2016

Europa Report

Europa Report (]Sebastián Cordero, 2013)  Sci-fi/adventure film crossing several styles of film-making, but primarily done in a faux-documentary/found footage style about a long-range NASA flight to the Jupiter moon of Europa, which, it has been speculated by many looking at it from afar and across many different spectra, is the most likely of our neighborhood system's bodies that could, maybe, possibly support life as we know it (if all the ingredients and conditions necessary for it outweigh everything that would prevent it).

The whole thing is staged like a documentary. There are pre-flight press conference archives, post-event footage of interviews (giving us a nice sense of complacency), some scrambled interference to give us the "fallible narrator" idea, and lots and lots of "normalcy" footage (something that proved useful to The Martian, which makes Europa Report, seem less of a waste of space in presentation). 
The other thing that's neat about it, is that NASA advisers worked with the film-makers to give it a sense of verisimilitude.  The gear is "lowest-contract-bidder" looking, we get a sense of the routine (just so we can tell when it gets broken), and we become acquainted with the various camera set-ups that record what's going on automatically. It looks very authentic, much more so than misfires like that lousy Apollo 18 movie a couple years back, or even the clever Ridley Scott "transmission" footage used to hide the scale models and flaws in its "planet-side" footage in Alien
The film is cast well and game, maybe a little too game, as you don't get the sense that these guys are astronauts or pilots or physicists or ice geologists or whatever they're supposed to be.  But, any more casual "reading you five-by-five, Houston" and you wouldn't have been able to distinguish one from the other at all, and that wouldn't do well with what the film wants to do, which one will become aware of fairly early on in the proceedings. It does cast a couple of fairly well known "anonymous" actors—in other words, it's not George Clooney, Sandra Bullock or Brad Pitt—but it is Michael Nyqvist (from the first versions of the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series) and Sharlto Copley (of District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium) Embeth Davidtz (of Schindler's List, Army of Darkness and "Mad Men"), and Karolina Wydra (she was briefly Mrs. House on "House, M.D."), all very good international actors that few would recognize. A good strategy, that, even if it does make it it a little hard to keep track of everybody.
And that's the main problem, here. The story is pretty standard stuff in the murder/horror realm, as we lose crew-members one by one, a sort of "Ten Little Astronauts". But by how or by what, we have no idea in a world of possibilities (other than the age-old problem of everybody ignoring the transmission to "get back in"). Ultimately, this is what limits Europa Report, despite the fact that its intention is to expand our horizons and conceptions. We know what's going to happen. We know how it's going to end. And whatever great discovery and what it might mean to our ideas of the Universe as put out by the film are overshadowed by the rote way in which its conveyed. Any uniqueness is swallowed by convention.
Which makes you wonder: if we do find life in the Universe besides us, is our reaction going to be: "Uh-huh, so what else is new?"


  1. Hmm. I remember liking this a bit more than this response would indicate. Maybe I was just in a generous mood when I saw it.

    1. Generosity is a strong suit of yours,'ve been very generous with this site, for example.

      Hope all is well and will get in touch to catch up.