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Europa Report

Entry updated 18 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2013). Magnet Releasing and Wayfare Entertainment present a Wayfare Entertainment production. Directed by Sebastián Cordero. Written by Philip Gelatt. Cast includes Christian Camargo, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu and Karolina Wydra. 89 minutes. Colour.

Six astronauts search for life on Jupiter's fourth largest moon.

Found Footage forms the basis of this uneasy-but-interesting mixture of Spacesuit Film and Horror in SF told through the visual syntax of the drama-documentary. A series of well-designed but dramatically stilted scenes involving international crew, Captain William Xu (Wu), pilot Rosa Dasque (Marinca), science officer Daniel Luxembourg (Camargo), marine biologist Katya Petrovna (Wydra) and engineers James Corrigan (Copley) and Andrei Blok (Nyqvist) soon gives way to the depiction of the psychological impact on the Scientists of losing their Communications feed to Earth, of failing to fix the plethora of technical problems plaguing the privately-funded Europa One mission and, as the prospects of returning home diminish entirely, of each member of the crew sacrificing his or her life to preserve the data of the mission: Europa Report is in effect an attempt to dramatize the scientific method by showing its impact at the scale of the human.

"Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter?" asks pilot Rosa Dasque as she, the sole remaining crew member, chases the as-yet-unidentified heat signature which may or may not be Alien life deep into Europa's ocean: sure enough, the footage she sends home identifies the cephalopod-like creature circumferenced by a circle of lights and the accompanying data proves more important to the future of the human race than the people producing it. That the alignment of the private interests of scientists with the public object of scientific enquiry moved from its codification in the works of Francis Bacon to forming the intellectual basis of the Age of Enlightenment is a difficult thing to portray in science fiction Cinema, a form more often fascinated by Dystopias and the broad visual sweep of planetary jeopardy than by the detail of scientific enquiry. Europa Report makes a similar decision to that of Sunshine (2007) in a bid to solve this apparent stand-off between science and drama – it begins to kill off its crew, one by one – but remains an intriguing idea whose surety of tone is undermined by its unwillingness to fully understand itself as Fantastika; which is to say as a story taking place in an invented world according to conventions of Genre SF that might root its Hard SF premise all the more clearly to a dramatically meaningful outcome were it not quite so mundane in scope. The Inner Space of the crew of the Europa One is not realized sufficiently well to feel significant in its own right and it is not so satisfactorily fused with the planetary environment of the astronauts as to feel transformative, as might be the case, for instance, in a New Wave science fiction narrative such as Solaris (1971) or Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (1984). Allusions to Strauss's The Blue Danube theme (see SF Music), used so famously in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and to the visual isolation and claustrophobia of Duncan Jones's Moon (2009), do not quite manage to elevate the mainstream tenor of Europa Report into the vernacular of the SF Megatext. [MD]


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