2001 A Space Odyssey for the modern era

Featuring

Daniel Wu as Cmd. William Xu
Anamarna Marinca as Rosa Dasque
Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg
Karolina Wydra as Katya Petrovna
Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan
Michael Nyqvist as Andrei Blok
and a special appearance from Neil deGrasse Tyson as himself

Europa Report is one of those rare movies that actually does most of the science things right. Despite its small budget due to its independent nature and its relatively unknown cast, the movie is fantastic in creating tension, mystery and was made extremely realistically.

The basic premise is very sound. Since the discovery of liquid water underneath the ice shell of Europa, one of Jupiter’s four largest moons, speculation has been rife amongst the scientific community that there might well be marine life there. It might not be complex or intelligent, but if there was life just a stone’s throw away in astronomical terms, then logically there would be other life out there too. None of this is especially far fetched, given life has been found on Earth in some very remote and extreme conditions.

The story follows the crew of six on their journey to and experiences and discoveries on Europa. The journey takes around two years and also relates the setbacks the crew suffer during this period in space. It is as realistic a portrayal as you can get: the time is spent in relative boredom followed by moments of sheer terror when a setback occurs. Of course, the movie does not follow the chronological order of the two years, instead cutting in and out of the present and the past.

I can’t help but compare this to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The destination is generally the same – the monolith in orbit around Jupiter – compared to Europa itself. The motivation to investigate the possibility of alien life is mostly the same. The effort to make the film as realistic as possible. There’s even a nice little tribute to its forebear. As the crew is leaving Earth orbit on its way to Europa, The Blue Danube plays over the speakers.

Is Europa Report superior? No, not compared to Kubrick’s original classic. Both films are slow paced, contemplative pieces. The thing that made Odyssey special is its fantastic vision of the future, including the imaginings of humanity’s tentative steps to colonising space and the prediction of how computing power would change the world and the wonderful mysteries that surround the monolith. The book Odyssey is based on is a seminal classic in science fiction writing as are its sequels. Europa Report is a homage to Odyssey but manages to hold its own, although the end seemed very contrived and bordered on plausibility.

Rating

A good science reality flick incorporating lots of tension without having to resort to too much fancy maneuvering.

Should I watch this?

Aspires to the heights of 2001: A Space Odyssey and falls short. Still, despite the story not being written by Arthur C. Clarke it is still an engrossing watch.

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