Director: Sebastian Cordero
Writer: Philip Gelat
Starring: Daniel Wu, Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Dan Fogler
Runtime: 1hr 30mins
I had the singular experience of revisiting Europa Report last night looking for some redeeming quality to offset my earlier dismal opinion of the film, and I came away from my search for some deserving characteristics, artistic or otherwise for this depiction of a deep space mission to the moon of Jupiter more-or-less empty-handed. It’s difficult to understand what the film’s creators had in mind beyond making a film that attempts to be realistic; almost documentary-type look at as an international crew of astronauts attempts to go where no man had gone before and delved deeper into the final frontier than anyone before them had gone. If that sounds promising and like it might make a great science fiction film to you, it did to me too. There’s just one thing, the creators of this film seem to have forgotten it might be a good idea to make it entertaining also.
In case you are unfamiliar with this film or your mind has mercifully allowed you to forget the experience, Europa Report is a film of the “found footage” variety, a more recently popular style of movie I had sworn off of because I find them incredibly annoying and usually poorly done. Sloppy, jerky filmography is an accepted feature of these films, and I find it very unpleasant to sit down to a movie and be assaulted by intentionally jerky, out of focus and poorly framed shots as an acceptable and somehow artistic quality of whats on the screen. Also being tormented by partially defined, and vague images appearing on the screen only to have them jerked away before your mind can fully grasp what is looking at and whether its relative to the narrative is not my idea of enjoyable entertainment. It’s a format that has never worked for me because I don’t find it entertaining, just annoying.
Next, we have the crew and the claustrophobic ship they travel in during the film’s entirety. These people are incredibly dull; there is no attempt to infuse them with some personality or characteristics that make them seem even remotely human. They may as well be robots, dull robots without personalities. Also, I found myself wondering where the tropes we might typically see in a film like this are? A never-ending game of solitaire laid out on a table or a half played game of chess? There’s nothing like that to be found. Europa Report fails to humanize its characters. The closest the film comes to giving any of these people a personality is a brief satirical explanation volunteered by Copely’s character of why women need more clothes and variety in footwear as a way to keep them happy and prevent problems. The dullness of the crew makes the film seem dull also. It’s almost as if the film’s creators were so determined to make the movie feel realistic they left out all the little things that make reality and being human what it is. There’s no friendly conversation, no flirtation or anything even resembling that time-honored pastime. You know there’s a problem when the most exciting parts of the film are outside shots of the ship.
So after what seems like an interminably long trip to achieve the goal of their journey, the ship finally arrives, and there is nothing even remotely akin to excitement on the part of the crew. The portrayal of the landing on the moon gets done in a way that makes it seem anticlimactic. When things start to go wrong, it’s a relief when the realization hits the entire film up to this point has been an extended introduction to the film’s climactic moments at its conclusion. The film’s final moments and scenes don’t quite make up for the long journey it took to arrive there. Admittedly the film does manage to create some suspense and tension towards its conclusion. When the payoff finally arrives, it’s just such a letdown it was nearly enough to make me angry after an hour and a half of such a tedious journey. A bio-luminescent octopus? They could have stayed on earth for that, and it probably would have been more interesting. Perhaps if some sort of further information about these alien lifeforms had been forthcoming, it might have made the creatures more interesting. I mean if you want to make a movie about an octopus (1). Set the story in Japan, make it gigantic and call it Octzilla or something of that sort. (2) Have the astronauts come from another planet and have a massive battle with it, and (3) after the fight and the aliens leave, have one little piece of tentacle survive that means Octzilla will be back sometime in the future.