In last week’s review of the sci-fi flick Apollo 18, I mentioned that I’d recently been down to visit my mother, and thus had a couple of good-bad movie reviews to send your way. This is the second from that series, and, as with Apollo 18, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing, acting, and production here too. I can’t actually explain that stroke of luck; it’s very unlike us. (Though one of you guys recommended this one to me a while back — was that you, RogerBW? If so, thank you!)
The movie begins with the CEO of Europa Ventures telling the story, documentary-style, of the Europa One mission. When it was discovered that Jupiter’s moon (Europa, dig?) was covered in liquid water deep under its frozen crust, the desire to become the first to discover evidence of life elsewhere in the universe was too hard to resist. The corporation hired six astronauts, who set out about 2 years ago planning to land on the moon, take samples from that liquid water, and see if it had anything interesting swimming around in it. Six months into the flight, comms were lost in a solar storm, and Europa Ventures heard nary a thing until nearly 14 months later (present day), when suddenly they received a huge stream of video footage and evidence the entire crew was dead.
As we learn from the “found footage” that follows, the solar storm not only knocked out communications, but cost the mission the life of a crew member, who went out on a space walk to try to fix the problem and became contaminated with a deadly chemical. Realizing he couldn’t go back on board without killing everybody else, he cut himself loose, a gut-punching scene for all parties (especially me, because that was Sharlto Copley’s character and I love him). Despite the death of both their comms and their friend, however, the team decided to press on with the mission.
Fourteen months later, Europa One finally landed on the moon’s surface, their bad luck continuing when they completely missed their targeted landing zone. The crew managed to drill through the ice below the ship anyway and sent a probe down to collect samples, but they were in the wrong spot and the samples sucked. Desperate to make the mission a success, if only for the sake of their fallen comrade, one of the astronauts insisted on going outside the ship to collect samples by hand, where she miraculously managed to find what looked exactly like a single-celled organism noodling around in one of her vials. Everyone on board cheers! Victory! And then: Oh, hey, what’s that bright light over there? Let me go take a closer look. . . Wow, this is weird. . . AHHHHHHHHH!
See, because while in the real world, finding evidence of life elsewhere in the universe would be super cool, in sci-fi movies that’s the kind of thing that almost always ends in tears. And so it goes with Europa Report.
While I confess I was a little disappointed in the ending of this movie (we finally see a creature, for one thing, and this is a low-budget sci-fi movie which means that creature was pretty lame), overall, I was really impressed by the quality of the writing, acting, and special effects. The (mostly computer-generated) sets looked pretty amazing — as it turns out, the filmmakers used NASA and JPL maps to design the movie’s Europa in the film, which is cool, and also used real footage from the International Space Station as inspiration for a lot of scenes on board the ship. Their research work shows.
Overall, I think both Mom and I would say this is another good choice for fans of space sci-fi. And there you go, guys: Apollo 18 and Europa Report — I just mapped out your next movie night double-feature (apologies in advance to your friends and family.)
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Disaster
Cast: Christian Camargo, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley