I first heard about Europa report on the internet. I was very disappointed to learn that it was only going to be available in larger markets on limited release and on the internet for purchase as a digital download, but was encouraged when I found that I was able to pre-order it on Amazon, which I did.
It is an interesting film that I am not sure what to think about just yet, but as I mentioned on Facebook, I think I like it. I’m going to have to watch it again though to get the full impact of everything that happens in the film.
The “found footage” format of film is not really my favorite. This is a found footage film that is presented in the form of a documentary presented what went wrong on the first mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
After sending unmanned probes to Europa, it is determined that the make-up of the large moon is a world covered with water incased in a layer of ice that has varying depths across the surface. The Europa One spacecraft is dispatched with an international crew of six. The mission is privately funded. The story is told from the point of view of Dr. Unger, the head of the project. She appears as part of a narrative and in scenes that are from a press conference that she and her team participates in.
Everything goes off without a hitch until a solar event knocks out communications between Europa One and mission control. During an attempt to repair the communications, one of the astronauts has his suit contaminated with hydrazine, a highly toxic propellant that would contaminate the entire ship. The astronaut decides to save his partner, the chief engineer, but sacrifices himself. Without communications, it is up to the crew to decide whether to abort the mission or to carry on. After some discussion, the decision is made to continue with the mission.
Upon arrival at Europa, the crew makes a successful landing on the moon, but it is a little short from the designated target area thanks to a thermal vent that threw the ship off course. The crew sends a drill probe through the ice to reach the liquid subsurface of the planet. After a short time, a bright light is seen on the monitor, the probe indicates heavy radiation and the probe stops sending information.
Being not far off, one member of the crew goes EVA to reach the original landing zone to discover when appears to be lights moving around underneath the ice. The astronaut gathers what she can in the way of ice samples, but again that source of radiation arrives on the scene and the astronaut is lost as she plunges through the ice. The rest of the crew decide that they should take what they have learned and get back to earth, but while lifting off, the engines have trouble and the ship begins to plummet back to the surface. The ship’s commander gets out of his seat to jettison the water shielding that protects the crew from radiation in order to lessen the impact of the ship. His strategy works keeping the ship from being destroyed, but he is killed in the process.
One of the three remaining astronauts are lost when they attempt to make repairs on the propulsion systems. The mission’s chief engineer manages to complete repairs on the communications systems before he himself is killed, and the last remaining member of the crew records a situation report, sends it with other video and data that has been gathered before she is finally lost.
Nothing about the story in this film is really new or extraordinary. An unknown creature in an unfamiliar location preys on a number of people and is kind of revealed at the end of the movie. Are you thinking Alien, or perhaps Apollo 18. That’s what came to mind as I watched this. However, that isn’t the whole thing.
This film has some amazing visual effects, taking it’s visuals from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; one has to think it very accurate in that respect. A lot of time and money went into this film to make it visually accurate, and it pays off in spades. It is really too bad that this film was released on a limited basis, it would been a good one to see on the big screen.
The other thing that really makes this worthwhile to see is the film score. Brilliantly composed and directed by Bear McCreary is brilliant and adds a great deal to the film.
One problem that, in my opinion, this type of film presents for me is that there is minimal or no character development; there are no characters that I found appealing to me and I didn’t really care that they were being taken away one by one because I didn’t really have an investment in them. In the case of this particular film, the story is very disjointed for the first half of the movie, jumping back and forth between scenes, many of which really didn’t have a great deal of context in the movie.
My recommendation? As I reflect on this film, I find that I appreciate what the film makers were trying to do, but I cannot say that it was a great film. It has some great elements, but the acting and the story aren’t among those elements. I find myself kind of saying that Sci-Fi Fans might enjoy it, but don’t expect something spectacular. It is pretty much as I said an ordinary film with some extraordinary elements.
I am wondering if that isn’t perhaps why the film makers decided not to have it distributed by a major studio and kept it to a limited release.
Well, there it is…