Twitter Plot Summary: Footage from the first manned mission to the moon of Europa. It’s around Jupiter.
Five Point Summary:
1. Heading to Europa before Mars? Rilly?
2. Precarious journey onto the surface.
3. Off into space he goes.
4. She’s going out for a walk, she may be some time.
5. Typical third act territory.
What would it be like if there was a privately funded trip to land a manned mission on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter? Well, Europa Report answers that question, basically stating we’ll make a couple of important discoveries before the crew are very slowly killed either through bad luck or the perils of space travel becoming most apparent – you know, the vacuum of space, heading into the unknown and having to drink your own recycled urine. Cliche and obvious this pattern may be, but if it had been any other way it would no doubt make for a far less entertaining story.
As something that’s supposed to make us suspend disbelief and watch it as though we’re privy to something that has recently been declassified, the footage is presented a little too cleanly to fully immerse the audience, a little too obviously a bunch of unfiltered HD cameras being used rather than being footage gained from a viable scientific endeavour. The documentary-style approach, inserting talking heads and “archive” footage of scientists discussing the lead up to the mission, works on the whole and helps create a sense of realism – you’ll be grateful for it by the time we reach the finale as it does lapse into typical third act territory by having lots going on in a very short space of time.
There are a number of positive points, first and foremost in that the story remains entertaining in both a narrative and a scientific sense. The science may not be entirely kosher throughout, but it’s presented in such a way that any scientific fallacies are easily glossed over, it’s a work of fiction after all. With the exception of Sharlto Copley, who most audiences may not recognise unless they’ve seen Maleficent, The A-Team or District 9, is the biggest name in a cast made up primarily with unknowns. This is for the best as it allows for at least some immersion into the characters and the story, which wouldn’t have worked nearly as well had name actors been cast. There are a few emotional moments as it becomes clear that the characters all have a certain amount of respect for each other despite their occasionally negative banter, which makes the inevitable deaths all the more poignant. This isn’t a group who are ideologically split about their mission or how they should proceed when things start to go wrong, which marks a refreshing change from the norm.
Europa Report marks a solid if unremarkable science fiction movie that approaches its story in a competent and realistic manner, yet fails to distinguish itself beyond its generally solid appearance. It’s nice to have a solid science fiction movie for a change, however it would have been better if it was a little less George Clooney’s Solaris and a little more Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. That way you’d be in a position to enjoy the rampant science on display whilst also experiencing an entertaining story. In this instance it might be a little too dry for the majority, but the sci-fi trappings are well handled and doesn’t quite go in the direction you might expect. For that it deserves praise if nothing else.