Friday, July 19, 2013

Europa Report ~ Message Received

Europa Report - Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
The film "Europa Report" is a simple story of man reaching out toward the heavens even further than he has gone before.  We are talking about the days before we witnessed the starship Enterprise whisk around the galaxy.  Before our extraterrestrial mining ships became infested with xenomorphs, and long after an Empire was conquered and a Republic rose and fell many times.  We hearken back to the times before "2010," when Russian and Americans both ventured out into space together.  We go back in time before the year 2001, the year we made contact.  In some ways, we go back to the days before the "Apollo 18" mission, and we start all over with a fresh take on space exploration and what lies beyond our moon.  After detecting ice on Jupiter's moon Europa, A private company sends out six astronauts to explore the ice in hopes of detecting some primeval signs of life.  The film stars an international cast including Sharlto Copley ("Elysium," "District 9"), Michael Nyqvist, ("The Girlwith the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy), Christian Camargo ("Hurt Locker" "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" Parts I & II), Daniel Wu, and Anamaria Marinca.  "Europa Report" is 95 minutes long and is Rated PG-13.

This is not a new story.  Man's reach for the stars is told in a slightly non-conventional way.  As a found footage film, "Europa Report" has a few things that are different from say "Apollo 18," or the classic "2001: A Space Odyssey. “  Using the ship's on board cameras in a dazzling display of storytelling by way of multiple images on screen at once, focusing on individual characters, and cutting to CEO of Europa Ventures, Samantha Unger, we get a complete, if not time twisted version of the fate of the Europa One crew.


Europa Report - The Europa 1 crew | A Constantly Racing Mind


The crew consists of two pilots, two, scientists, and two engineers.  The most vocal of the crew, is engineer James Corrigan (Copley).  He narrates the activity for the sake of his young son back on Earth.  Andrei (Nyqvist), his engineering partner, is stoic and grumpy.  The oldest of the crew, he is somewhat of a father figure.  The two scientists sent to study the ice and perhaps the water below is Dr. Katya Petrovna (Karolina Wydra) and Dr. Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo).  Katya is the explorer, while Luxembourg tends to play things safe when dealing with the unknown.  Flying the Europa 1, the many millions of miles to its destination are pilot William Xu (Wu) and co-pilot Rosa Dasque (Marinca).  We never get to see fully formed characters, however, what we do see, is something akin to the ideal of innocence of going into space with an open mind without the luggage of over a hundred years of self-imposed dread of the unknown.

The question that is posed at the beginning of the film is what happened to the Europa 1 crew.  The question should be what isn't going on?  Director Sebasti├ín Cordero works with Philip Gelatt's script as deftly and as beautifully as he can in the confines of a long cylindrical tube.  We don't get the same claustrophobic feeling that "Apollo 18" gave us.  We do get a sense aloneness and fear as the crew lands on the surface and gathers readings.  Accidents happen, and because of the skill of the actors, we feel for them, we really do.  A Basing the climax on the Lovecraftian theory of only hinting at a creature so hideous, the director only gives us glimpses of what is out there.

Europa Report - The Pilots | A Constantly Racing MindThe found footage approach tends to cause more problems telling a story than it solves.  Because this is not a straight narrative, we are not allowed to experience the full effect of composer Bear McCreary's score.  We are not allowed to feel the tension rise with the music, as it is muted, restrained, and becomes unmemorable.  Nor can we experience the full vastness of space and the Europa 1 against the backdrop of Jupiter.  We do get some beautiful scenes of the planet as a backdrop against the planet, but not the beauty or elegance that a filmmaker can create with a camera that is not mounted stationary on a ship, or attached to a helmet.  We don't feel the danger, the dread, or the fear as one would as the music rises and falls, the camera zooms or pans to meet the upcoming threat.  We have none of this.

Filmgoers are such a whiney bunch!  We see a film like "Star Trek Into Darkness" and we cry, where is the Science Fiction?  Then, we are presented with a film like "Europa Report" and we cry, where's all the action?  Films such as "Virtuality," "Sunshine," or either of the two films named "Solaris" that tend to focus on the true Science Fiction aspect don't seem to be reaching its intended audience.  Or, is that audience truly limited in scope.  In this film, we have solid acting, decent story, not enough character development, and not enough tension.  "Europa Report" leaves me wondering if the found-footage concept has any place in Science Fiction.  With over 1000 hours of footage, sent back by Rosa Dasque in a last ditch attempt to tell the story of her doomed shipmates, I am glad I only had to watch an hour and a half of it.

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Movie Data

Genre:  Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo, Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca
Director: Sebasti├ín Cordero
Producer(s): Ben Browning
Writer: Philip Gelatt
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: 8/2/2013