Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. (Europa Report movie review)

I think that interplanetary travel is necessary for the survival of our species.  Even if it’s within our own system, our future lies somewhere other than Earth.  This past thanksgiving, my cousin and I were discussing what that might look like if it’s to be privately funded.  (The tourism possibilities are endless.)  Well, in Europa Report, a ship is sent, using private funds, to Jupiter’s moon Europa.  Instead of setting up a hotel, three theme parks and hundreds of Starbucks, they’re looking into some strange thermal readings; the mission is strictly scientific.

The movie starts with footage transmitted back to mission control.  It’s presented out of order, so we get the impression that something bad happened, but we don’t know what.  We get the explanation of what the mission is and why a manned mission is being sent up, rather than just some probe.  Jupiter is pretty far out, which makes impatience seem somewhat rational.  (It takes almost two years for the crew to get out there, to say nothing of the trip back.)

The mission starts with six crew members.  If you’ve seen similar movies, like Apollo 18 and The Blair Witch Project, you know that things will tend to go from bad to worse.  This is where I didn’t like the out-of-sequence nature of the footage.  One crew member is dealing with survivor’s guilt after a spacewalk.  We know something bad is going to happen to one of the crew members, but we don’t know what.

The other five do make it, but even then, there’s an element of danger.  There’s radiation.  They have to worry about landing on and taking off from ice.  There’s also the unknown.  There could be all sorts of untold dangers.  And one of them wants to go out to get samples after the probe is lost.

The movie is definitely better than Apollo 18.  Very little of the movie takes place on Europa; most of it is spent in transit.  You’d think it would be all cheesy, but it’s done well.  The crew members interact and manage to not get on each other’s nerves.  You see them sending messages home or explaining the artificial gravity.  Most of the buildup is in hoping that they’ll find something.  They expect single-celled organisms, if anything.  Would the mission be a bust if they find nothing?  Not really.  Finding nothing would be a discovery in its own right.

The big problem with going out that far is that you’re on your own.  This is used to nice effect at several points in the movie.  If something breaks, it’s not like you can call for roadside assistance.  You have to fix it yourself.  If someone gets sick, you have to hope you have what it takes to heal them.

The CGI was well done, all things considered.  Seeing Jupiter in the sky was pretty nice.  My only complaint was that Europa is about the size of our moon.  Shouldn’t there be considerably less gravity than Earth?  I’m not sure how close Europa is to Jupiter, but the planet is pretty big.  (It is called a gas giant, after all.)  I’d think that tidal forces would have been more noticeable.  I was also surprised that they didn’t bring more experiments.  You’d think they’d have brought some algae or be doing experiments on frog reproduction or something.

I found this through Netflix streaming.  Since the movie probably has little replay value, I’d say that renting or streaming is the way to go.  It’s not a bad movie.  It definitely tends more towards 2001 and 2010 than Apollo 18 and Blair Witch.  It’s just that I don’t think I’d sit through it a second time.

No comments :