Europa Report is an independent science fiction film directed by Ecuadorian filmmaker Sebastian Cordero (Cronicas, Rage) that tells the tale of mankind’s first (manned) space mission to Saturn’s moon Europa. The mission is privately funded and an international crew is aboard the the ship. They’re on their way to find life on Saturn’s moon, one of four, because as it is hypothesized, certain conditions on the Europa are a prime breeding ground for potential life sources. That’s what the crew is there to find out.
The chaps are composed of various doctors and engineers, with different skill sets amongst them. The most recognizable ones (actors) out of the crew are marine biology science officer James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley) and chief engineer Andrei Bloc (Michael Nyqvist). The film starts off as a sort of found footage film. It’s basically a declassifying of footage from the mission that had been kept a secret until now. We’re given a fragmented storyline where some of the footage starts at the end, then moves to the beginning, before settling in the middle. All of this is driven forward by interviews with certain members of the scientific team that worked on the mission on Earth. We also get various points of view from the multitude of cameras placed throughout the ship. It really lends itself to the claustrophobic environment.
The crew’s mission is to dock on Europa and collect samples and transport them back to Earth for study. It’s all fun and games until crew members start dying. On the surface Europa Report looks like the typical space travel film – we’ve had quite a few in the recent past, some good and some not-so-good. We see how the crew spends their time (keep in mind, it’s years until they get there) on board the ship talking, working, goofing around, etc. It’s not until certain malfunctions onboard the ship start to occur that they’ll be put to the test. In space it’s not the aliens you should be afraid of , it’s the faulty paneling on your ship you should be worried about.
I think that’s why I really gravitated towards the film right away. It’s rooted in reality, has a likable cast, and the production values are stellar. Some of the nitpickings that I’ve been hearing about come from people who have asked, “Why send a manned mission to Europa when you can send a manned mission to Mars?” My answer to that would be, in the context of the film and its premise, how do you know that they haven’t done so already? Europa Report‘s timeframe indicates to me that it takes place in the future. Maybe quite a few years from now. There is no NASA umbrella over it, all we get is that the mission is “privately funded.” Maybe we’ve already colonized Mars? Who knows. It’s irrelevant.
I really dug the dramatic components of the film in addition to the scientific ones. It also didn’t try to be overtly “smart.” It’s pretty basic. Fly to one of Saturn’s moons, land, collect samples, get back to the ship, fly back to Earth. Oh, and don’t die. Some things are easier said that done.
Europa Report is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1 (16X9) anamorphic widescreen. Here’s a film that just begs to be under the HD microscope for careful review. It’s got every color of the rainbow along with scenes of beautiful darkness and contrasting light. Everything, with exception to the slight contrast issues once we’re on Europa come through on this Blu-ray with flying colors. Colors are bold and beautiful and never band, which was great. I expected just a bit – I’m reminded of the PS3′s “space and planet” screensavers while playing music on the device. The design is great but the banding is distracting as hell. This Blu-ray does not suffer from it. Black levels are also stellar in that you cannot see through the darkness once you’re in it. There are no traces of shadows or crush throughout those scenes and there’s quite a few. Lastly, this is technically a found footage film but the astronauts obviously used the best HD cameras to record their mission that money could by. That translates into a spectacular Blu-ray presentation.
Europa Report is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. A near reference track this film has – considering that space produces no sound. All of the dynamic sound design is to be found inside the ship and through the crisp and clear dialogue presented. The musical score also comes through loud and clear. The score is a synth-orchestral one, which quickly gave me some 2001: A Space Odyssey and John Carpenter’s The Thing flashbacks. And you know how I feel about synth heavy scores. That said, the score never drowns out the action or the mission at hand. You can hear every button being pushed, monitor prompt, and static clips from the many transmissions without any distortion. Europa Report will give your system a nice workout and you will be immersed.
We were doing so well with content and specs that it pains me to drop the grade down on the supplemental package. It’s virtually non-existent and for a film like Europa Report, it’s unforgivable. We are treated to a really cool but extremely short visual effects featurette that goes through some of the films FX and conceptual artwork. For a “low budget” film Europa Report had over 600 visual effects shots. The other cool featurette that runs less than 5 minutes long focuses on composer Bear McCreary’s (The Walking Dead) intense synth/orchestral score. Again, I would have loved to have gotten more info on the scoring of the film, because there’s not much to do or say in 5 minutes. A still gallery and theatrical trailer round out the extra features.
- Exploring the Visual Effects of Europa Report
- The Musical Journey of Europa Report
- Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
The build-up to the payoff of Europa Report is fierce and will toss you around (literally) like a doll. I think Europa Report is one of the better science fiction films grounded in reality to come out of the movie system in many years. It was shot independently and on a low budget but the story was never skimped on and JPL’s/NASA collaboration only enhances the experience. That gives it an edge, because on the hypothetical, if we ever get that advanced to where we can send humans to other planets or moons, who is to say that a scenario like Europa Report won’t happen? Europa Report is a damn good flick, with great video/audio specs but unfortunately drops the ball on the extras. Overall, it’s a trip worth taking. I’ve been to Europa and I liked it.