EUROPA REPORT | DVD REVIEW & GIVEAWAY

Salty Kernel John McParland reviews EUROPA REPORT, a little (unfortunately) straight to home entertainment movie in Australia that had a cinema release last June in the U.S. – a friend of mine in the U.S. who is also a critic just lives this film and this was one of his favourite films of last year. I enjoyed and it and did not love it and Kernel John tells you all below. Great cast with Michael Nyqvist (foreign Millenium Trilogy), Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Embeth Davidtz (Mad Men, Californication). It released on DVD here on April 9th and we have just gotten caught up to run the article, and with thanks to eOne Entertainment give you the chance to win a copy of it on DVD. If you do not win it and you are really keen to own a copy you can purchase it from HERE. Suss after John’s great review to find out how to win. All the best, JK.

 

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EUROPA REPORT | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | THE MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW FROM JOHN MCPARLAND

I am a huge fan of science fiction.  I long for the day when science fiction will become science fact, when the theories and technologies described within the genre suddenly become tangible, real world forces.  Better yet, I long for the day when science fiction becomes science fantasy, when our understanding of the Universe grows to the point that we look back on the classics of this theme and laugh at how wrong we were, how small we dreamed.  The day we learn that the entirety of creation is so much more grand and complex than we ever thought possible.

In 1978, Isaac Asimov, arguably one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time along with Arthur C. Clarke, wrote: “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today; but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”  He was referring to the true nature of science fiction, which is that of discovery and of human interactions in the face of the unknown.  To ignore these traits and to focus only on the present and the needs of one’s self, at the cost of the greater whole, is to doom humanity to a stagnant and futile existence.  Sadly, even now nearly forty years later, such poignant moments of reflection and understanding are often eclipsed by massive explosions and copious CGI.

 

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EUROPA REPORT | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | ASTRONAUTS ON THE SPACESHIP

 

I say all of this by way of introduction to prepare the reader for my review.  EUROPA REPORT is not STAR WARS, nor is it any other mainstream science fiction film you could possibly care to name.  More in the vein of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, EUROPA REPORT is a film of discovery and a search for knowledge, with no laser beams, lightsabers or witty alien dialogue at all.  If those are the elements you enjoy in science fiction films, then rewatch the latest STAR TREK film and enjoy, EUROPA REPORT is probably not for you.  If, however, you wish to live Asimov’s dream and want to appreciate drama and discovery in an otherwise relatively actionless film, then grab a copy of EUROPA REPORT and settle in for a soul affirming time.

Directed by Sebastian Cordero in his first full-length English film, EUROPA REPORT stars Michael Nyqvist (THE MILLENIUM TRILOGY), Christian Camargo (THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN), Daniel Wu (THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS), Karolina Wydra (CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE), Sharlto Copley (DISTRICT 9), and Anamaria Marinca as the six crewmembers of Europa One.  Tasked with discovering if life exists under the ice sheets of Jupiter’s moon Europa, the Europa One spacecraft launches on a 22-month mission to the Jovian juggernaut’s satellite.  Based on our understanding of biology, wherever we find water we find life, and so our team sets off to determine if this is true by studying Europa’s subsurface liquid oceans.  I have always enjoyed these sorts of stories, where the notion is “if it happens on Earth, it should happen anywhere conditions are similar, so let’s go check it out,” and water is a vital component for life as we know it.  It is also the cause of significant grief for me when moviemakers take this concept too far such as in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.  It was explained in that film that the aliens were invading us for our water supplies, Earth being 70% water, and my surrounding cinema goers nodded their heads in understanding as if this statement made perfect sense and explained everything.  It did nothing of the sort.  If an alien species had the technological prowess and might to launch an interstellar war over one of the simplest compounds in existence, then surely they could build a giant drill, go and mine Europa and Enceladus and leave us the hell alone.  What a stupid reason to invade a planet.  Do not even get me started on SIGNS.

 

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EUROPA REPORT | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | ASTRONAUTS ON THE SPACESHIP

 

The mission in EUROPA REPORT encounters numerous problems along its route.  There is heartache, tragedy, loss, and sacrifice, but through it all, the members of Europa One stay the course knowing that their mission and the discoveries they have made are of greater importance to humanity than any other factor.  The acting is wonderful, each character able to represent the anguish of loss beautifully, while still maintaining a certain grit in the face of tragedy, and an almost desperate desire to ensure that their mission continues, so that the knowledge they have gained is not lost.  This is what science fiction tales are truly about.  The interaction of protagonists with each other and their environment, and the way they handle themselves when thrown into chaotic situations.  Space itself is not the hero in this piece, as it is in so many others.  Space is merely the backdrop against which our true heroes test their mettle.

The film itself is portrayed in a documentary style, recounting the story of Europa One after the fact, from its launch, through the completion of its objectives, and to the present.  The majority of the clips within this documentary that feature the crew or their mission are of a found footage, PARANORMAL ACTIVITYesq style, with shots taken from the internal cameras of the Europa One craft.  This mashing together of multiple filmmaking styles was annoying, as the film, like most documentaries, kept jumping backwards and forwards through time, making the viewer work to try to put events in sequence.  Key moments in the film were also interrupted to unveil important backstory, again, jumping between scenes, characters, and timeframes without warning.  I understand why the producers did this, as it aids in building suspense, but the storyline (in sequence) is solid enough that they did not need to resort to these techniques.  I personally would have much preferred a film that just flowed naturally.  The found footage style of cinematography used was the true failing of this film.  The vast majority of shots in the movie are from static “security” cameras inside the ship, meaning that the actors had to act around the cameras to make a scene come alive, instead of just having the camera move amongst the actors.  The film tries to compensate for this by rapidly moving from one camera to another, all focused on the same setting, to aid in giving the scene more depth, but all it really does is make following events tricky as you are forced to relocate each crew member every time the angle shifts.

 

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EUROPA REPORT | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | ASTRONAUTS ON THE SPACESHIP

 

The sound quality of the film was also a point of concern.  Dialogue is captured via Europa One’s internal microphones, or through crew radios.  To give the film a sense of impending disaster, this recording was often broken or overlaid with slight static, like talking on a bad mobile phone line.  Couple this with the foreign accents of some of the actors and the inappropriately timed swell of music, and the dialogue in some scenes became completely unintelligible, much to my disappointment.

The special effects are minimal but impressive.  The view of Jupiter seen hanging in the sky from the surface of Europa through the cavernous walls of the moon’s glacial plains was just amazing.  The icy surface of Europa itself is masterfully done, and makes Hoth look like a fuzzy snow cone.

I love action packed science fiction movies.  STAR WARS holds a special place in my heart and even decades after its release remains a classic piece of cinema for critics around the world.  That said, it is wonderfully refreshing to see a film that embraces science fiction from the human perspective, as EUROPA REPORT does.  Compared to the modern glut of sci-fi flicks, films in this vein are rare.  As a science fiction tale, I absolutely adored EUROPA REPORT with its ambitious storyline and heartfelt character interactions.  However, as a film, I found it terribly difficult to watch, as the static camera angels and choppy documentary style seriously detracted from the suspense the film was trying to portray.  Recut and re stylised into a more cohesive whole and I would happily give this film a near perfect score.  Sadly, it is how it is, and certain aspects of this movie make that notion impossible.

 

KERNEL JOHN’S POP SCORE:

3 Pops

JK’S POP SCORE:

3 and a Half Pops

 

With special thanks to eOne Entertainment to win one of the 5 x copies of the DVD of EUROPA REPORT you need to either like and share this post on Facebook or retweet/ favourite it on Twitter, you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer to the following question:

What is your favourite movie set on another planet and why?  I would have a tie between both Moon and Avatar if I was to have a vote that counts 🙂

If you do not have Facebook and Twitter then get with the times old timer haha – You can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at jking@saltypopcorn.com telling me you don’t have social media 

The prizes will be sent after May 15th. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.