Blog Directory CineVerse: 2021: A space oddity

2021: A space oddity

Monday, February 8, 2021

As a low-cost, direct-to-video sci-fi entertainment, Europa Report provides an impressive return on investment for the filmmakers and viewers alike. Buoyed by a credible premise (the enticement of visiting a moon in our solar system that scientists believe may sustain life) and an intriguing cinematic setup (in which we rely on found footage, recorded by cameras on the spacecraft, that have survived a doomed mission), this picture serves as a refreshing “science-fact” take on sci-fi entertainment – albeit with a few flaws.

The CineVerse faithful screened and discussed Europa Report last week, with the following observations documented (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

Other films that come to mind after watching Europa Report

  • Gravity
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact
  • Moon
  • Apollo 13
  • Sunshine
  • Alien

How is Europa Report different from or similar to previous fact-based science-fiction films?

  • It’s a mashup of several different genres, including science-fiction, science-fact, thriller/suspense movie, mockumentary, meta-movie, and found footage film.
    • As a found footage movie, we are meant to uncover the events that unfolded during and mysteries surrounding the fate of the space mission via surviving recorded video footage. Except for footage featuring mission control leaders on Earth, every shot is sourced from a camera found within or without the ship.
  • The story is not told in linear chronological fashion; instead, the filmmakers choose to provide a fragmented narrative that jumps around in time and location. We know early on that something has gone horribly wrong with the mission and one of the crewmembers has died; eventually, we learn what, how, and why it happened.
  • This picture doesn’t follow predicted formula. The scenario is classic sci-fi horror, in which we might expect an encounter with a dangerous alien life form that threatens the lives of the astronauts. And, following that form, each member of the crew dies, leaving a “final girl” as many horror films do. However, there is no gratuitous or graphic violence, no jump scares, no viscera or gore, no nudity or romantic intrigue, and no betrayal or villainy by a human character. Instead, the movie takes a realistic approach by simulating NASA spacecraft, using stock footage of actual launches, focusing on a bona fide celestial body in our solar system, depicting the professionalism of each crew member, and featuring a variety of ethnicities, ages, and personalities – in keeping with astronauts we’ve seen on the International Space Station.
  • Unlike those sci-fi predecessors listed above, this isn’t a mega-dollars special-effects-laden extravaganza with showy set pieces, impressive creature effects, or expensive pyrotechnics. The only glimpse we get of an alien life form comes at the very end, revealed in a handful of seconds.

Themes laced into Europa Report

  • The price paid for man’s unquenching thirst for knowledge. At least twice in the film, the astronauts mention how their lives are insignificant compared to the quest for cosmic truth and information. Rosa says: “Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known... what does your life actually matter?”
  • The fragility of our physical human existence. This story demonstrates how even the smallest errors or twists of fate can lead to disastrous consequences that can quickly terminate corporeal life. Furthermore, there is an irony to the fact that we’ve created and perfected the incredible technology required to explore space, but our physical limitations can prevent us from fully experiencing or surviving extraterrestrial contact.
  • Claustrophobia and lack of privacy or normalcy. We are given an intimate look into the confining and restricting spaces these astronauts have to live in.
  • Guilt and regret. We perceive how the older senior engineer experiences guilt at the fact that his partner died in space after saving his life. Likewise, the crew undoubtedly feels conflicting emotions after Rosa disappears in the ice. The resourcefulness, resilience, and selflessness of human beings operating at their peak. The film demonstrates, on multiple occasions, how brave and intelligent acts of altruism and unselfishness help save crew members and preserve the video footage for posterity.

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