STARRING: Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto
Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Anamaria
2013, 90 Minutes, Directed by: Sebastián Cordero
such a deficit of hard science fiction movies out there – the last one we can
think of was 2009’s Moon – one desperately wants to like
Europa Report, a low-budget movie starring Sharlto Copley (of
District 9 fame) which goes
out of its way to depict space travel as realistically as possible. That the
movie is merely admirable as opposed to genuinely likeable comes as a mild
disappointment, but serious science fiction buffs should still seek it out.
It is the near future. NASA has
detected heat signatures beneath the frozen ocean of Europa, one of gas giant
Jupiter’s moons. Could it be signs of life? A privately funded spaceship crew is
sent on an eighteen-month mission to investigate. So far, so
Not much of the movie’s running
time is spent on the journey to Jupiter. It must be tedious and boring as hell,
and the astronauts must have a serious case of cabin fever after being cooped up
together all that time, but the movie merely hints at possible interpersonal
conflicts. This is a pity. Little time is spent on developing the characters and
when they start dying one by one, we feel little for their predicament.
Part of the problem is that
Europa Report is a so-called “found footage” movie like Blair Witch
Apollo 18, et al. We follow the astronauts on their doomed mission (no plot
spoilers: it is revealed pretty much early on) while we have a bunch of talking
heads back on Earth spelling out onscreen events in the most patronizing way
possible. Here is a movie that desperately needs to be re-edited. Dump the found
footage angle and the talking heads back on Earth we say.
"Serious science fiction buffs should seek it out!"
On the plus side, Europa
Report doesn’t have a lot of Vomit Cam ™ sequences because the action is
technically recorded by stationary onboard cameras. For a small budget affair,
the effects and sets are pretty decent too. Same goes for acting.
Mainstream Hollywood movies
such as Star Trek and
Star Wars have done a great disservice to the
efforts of our current space program. They did a lot to make space travel look
easy. The crew of the Enterprise breezily zip light years across stars and
galaxies without even bothering to install seat belts on their Apple store
lookalike command module. In reality, space travel is quite a hazardous
“You know we're sitting on four
million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving
parts built by the lowest bidder” as Steve Buscemi’s character reminded his
co-stars in 1998’s Armageddon. A lot can go wrong. The
crew in Europa Report has to cope with anything from solar flares to
The ending may be underwhelming
for movie audiences weaned on the likes of Nazis on the moon, but hard sci-fi
fans will be appreciative.
Ultimately, the movie could
have done with a longer running time and a more substantial storyline. Still,
serious-minded science fiction fans tired of mind-numbing action spectacles
should cough up for a digital download of Europa Report at Amazon (see
link below) as it somewhat restores a sense of wonder to a genre consisting
almost entirely of spandex-clad superheroes nowadays.
Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick:
Europa Report is flawed and
should be filed under “could have been better” but serious sci-fi fans will
find that this low-budget movie is the perfect antidote to a lot of the
Hollywood nonsense floating out there right now.
Watch Trailer / Clip: