Saturday, July 13, 2013

Europa Report

I’m a sci-fi type of guy and will usually watch anything from that genre within reason. When I saw that Europa Report, an indie science fiction drama, was being released on VOD before its limited theatrical run in August I decided to check it out. It stars two actors that I admire greatly – Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) and Michael Nyqvist (the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), and the plot was being kept a mystery which led me to want to see it all the more.

An international group of astronauts and scientists traveling to Europa, the fourth largest moon of Jupiter, in search of life must instead fight for their own survival when the mission goes horribly awry.
As much as I wanted to like Europa Report I just couldn’t get past the fact that it’s nothing but a generic rehash of a hundred other movies like Mission to Mars, Red Planet, The Core, Sunshine, 2010: The Year We Make Contact and every other disaster flick from the past forty years. It’s so by-the-book and cliché that I’m surprised that it even got made, let alone managed to snag two great actors and a decent effects house.

The story unfolds with a mix of found footage and interviews with some of the Earthbound characters about the Europa Mission. The found footage aspect is pulled off decently and is given a nice explanation as to why this tired storytelling gimmick was necessary. There was a constant feed of video being streamed from the ship to ground control that was interrupted by a random solar flare. All the video being recorded from that point on was streamed all at once once the communication systems were repaired during the film’s climax. The interview segments, mainly focusing on the characters played by Embeth Davidtz and Dan Fogler (!?), are the exact opposite and seem forced and phony.
The script by Philip Gelatt is as routine as they come and follows the standard outer space disaster film to a “T”. People go into space, things go wrong and they die one by one usually due to their own stupidity. Example: you’re out on the surface of Europa and are told that you only have a certain amount of air left and the radiation has reached a dangerous level… would you go and explore something you saw out of the corner of your eye? Is it any surprise that what you think would happen happens? The screenplay is predictable and tedious, never gives the crew members any real character development (Copley receives a small amount) and ends in such a sudden and anticlimactic fashion that it is frustrating beyond belief. The non-linear storytelling gimmick used is also extremely confusing and disorienting.

Director Sebastián Cordero seems more interested in making sure his found footage gimmick is working than directing his actors or making them likable or relatable. Sure his visuals of Europa are breathtakingly beautiful, but when I don’t give a crap about any of the characters it’s kind of a moot point. His pacing is lethargic, the interior shots are boring and horribly staged (the spaceship set looks really cheap) and nothing going on is made out to be even remotely interesting. Disappointing to say the least.  And could the clock that pops up on screen to tell us what month/day/time it is be any more confusing looking? Using this method to get across the non-linear story structure lost me more than I ever should have been.
When it comes to the acting Copley is the most successful of the cast by turning a nothing character into someone mildly likable. Nyqvist doesn’t do much but sit in one spot and stare at a screen. The same goes for the rest of the players: Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Anamaria Marinca and Daniel Wu. They just go through the motions for the most part, with Marinca only coming to life within the film’s final moments. The way they acted once they landed on Europa reminded me of all the shots of the bridge crew from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. You know, when they would just stare wild eyed at the viewscreen as they traveled deeper into the V’Ger cloud? Maybe Cordero used that film as a reference? Whatever the case may be, their bland performances make a slow moving movie even more tedious.

Sure the special effects are rad and some of the stuff that goes down is decently entertaining, but like I said at the top of this review, this is about as by-the-book as these flicks come. I saw everything coming minutes before they did, and I even had the order of the character’s deaths sussed out beforehand. Europa Report is not worth your time unless you love your entertainment ultra-predictable, boring and (thankfully) under 90 minutes. As you can probably already tell, I do not.

1.5 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment