Thursday, October 10, 2013

Europa Report

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! After checking out Europa, let's check out Uranus (I'm sorry for that one).

Europa Report – 4 out of 5

So it may seem cliché to have a sci-fi film about finding life elsewhere in the great universe (that just so happens to react to human contact with a raging murder boner), Europa Report takes this tale and makes it unsettling in a way that hasn’t been seen in the world of movies since Aliens…and, even more amazing, is they do it in a “found footage” way and, in the process, completely avoids all the bullshit that makes the “found footage” subgenre an unwavering piece of crap.

They're waiting on the results of the pregnancy test...the space pregnancy test.

An organization that calls themselves Europa Ventures decides to privately fund (because, Thanks Obama) a mission to Jupiter’s moon of Europa in the hopes of finding a place suitable for hosting simplistic life. However, the mission seemed doomed from the get go as the crew; Pilots William Xu (Daniel Wu) and Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca), Chief Science Officer Dr. Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), Marine Biologist Dr. Katya Petrovna (Karolina Wydra), James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley) and Chief Engineer Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist), starts to face some nearly disastrous issues and an communication’s blackout hides the horrors they discover when they reach the moon. Eventually, communications is reestablished and the CEO of Europa Ventures declassifies the footage and shows what went wrong on the mission and the shocking discovery the crew found…

"Alright, let's get our asses down there and check for life...friendly, in no way human-murdering life."

While the film starts slow, Europa Report builds at a perfect pace. The way the tension unfolds never comes at you too fast but builds layer upon layer till the final moments of the movie comes at you at “HOLY SHIT” levels. While I never found the film to be actually frightening, I did find it attention grabbing and suspenseful. And I think the last part has a lot to do with the fact the movie looks and feels very authentic…or about as authentic as a sci-fi movie can get.
The thing about this movie that makes it look real is Number 1) the acting is very, VERY good (Sharlto Copley is in it…so, of course, the acting is great) and Number 2) the film is presented in a “found footage” format that actually works. If you read my blog and check out my reviews (and if you do, we already know that you are a great, funny, polite, charitable person that’s attractive to the point they cause groin-gyrating, white-hot lust in all those they are attracted to) then you know I am NOT a fan of the “found footage” subgenre (with a few notable exceptions) because it is, despite being sold as realistic, the least realistic form of storytelling in movies.

"You quiet down, back there!  Don't make me turn this million dollar vessel around!"

Nothing about this genre makes sense. No one films their lives as much as a character in one of these movies does—and they especially don’t keep filming when the scary shit is going down or make sure they are in frame like, say, in Apollo 18. Furthermore, these genres depend on the gimmick and let the story and characters suffer. Most these films are based on a premise that would, at best, be a 10 minute short film but they end up being milked out to an hour and a half by filling them with fluff that does nothing to develop the story or the one-dimensional characters that are, usually, nothing more than just names and vague descriptions. However, Europa Report does what so few “found footage” movies can do and makes it work and actually make sense.

A mission to Europa gives you plenty of time to work on your Marlon Brando in The Godfather

First off, the film is presented pretty much like a documentary where the CEO of Europa Ventures; Dr. Unger (Embeth Davidtz), is setting up the footage you are about to see of the doomed mission to Jupiter’s moon. Right away this makes tons more sense than, say, an unlikeable couple who think they are being tormented by invisible monsters from the other side and think setting up a camera in their bedroom is the perfect action plan.  Due to the fact that if something like this happened in real, non-movie boring life, there would be an investigation and, probably, a documentary, so this movie makes mucho sense in that regard.

"I repeat, we have successfully launched the Q-tip ship."

The story goes further into plausibility as it actually provides legitimate reasons for the journey to be filmed—other than the voyage being a landmark in science and discovery, shit like this DOES get monitored…but this film doesn’t shoe-horn in handheld camera sequences with no realistic reason for doing so like, once again, Apollo 18 did (or maybe it was NASA's protocol to, when being attacked by little moon-rock monsters, to keep filming with the camera in your hand--that also was lightyears ahead of any camera technology to exist at the time--and, for God's Sake, keep your face in frame!). While there is an occasional handheld sequence, that part actually makes sense as it is Copley’s character taking a camera on a tour of the vessel for folks back on the blue orb Earth. The rest of the time, the footage is shown from the various cameras attached to the vessel (both inside and out) or attached to the spacesuits.

Is it possible to have too much Sharlto Copley face in your shot?  I think we both
know the answer to that.

The answer is no, by the way.

This element worked so well for me, a viewer, because it meant I didn’t have to sit through the usual “found footage” bullshit of shaking the camera a lot in order to hide any view of whatever is terrorizing the man with the camera. Europa Report takes this sad and pathetic (and overused) cliché and turns it on its head by taking the “disrupted footage” element and making it look legit. Radiation will cause the camera to distort BUT, unlike most “found footage” films, the filmmakers didn’t use this as an excuse to cover up the action. They use it to HIGHLIGHT the action as you can still see what the hell is going on and it only makes the film that much more interesting and engaging.  Objects are still obscured in this but not in a way where you are about to get motion sickness.

Even on Earth, blue lights under ice means some scary shit is coming your way.

The only real downside I felt the film had was the special effects; they were…well…they weren’t that good. While much of what you see looks real, the shots of the spacecraft in space looked infinitely less so. The only thing I can compare the look to is the graphic quality on a Playstation One video game cutscene. While bad special effects can be a mortal wound to some movies, it ended up being just a minor flesh wound for Europa Report thanks to the story and acting being so good…not to mention a killer ending! (Also, that wasn’t suppose to be a pun, for those who seen the movie.)

"Okay...maybe a little better than the PSOne."

Europa Report really surprised me. Truth be told, I thought it was going to be a low budget junk film that had a story that you can see its details a mile away. However, it was far better than I anticipated. While the story is very straight forward, the presentation it has is anything but; the story is edited in a way that you are forced to pay attention because a character’s fate will be presented one second but not fully revealed until later on and the way they made it look like a real documentary focusing on a real scientific mission really made the film unique. Despite lacking in the special effects department at points, Europa Report is a prime example of how to breathe life into the “found footage” genre but it's just all-around tight storytelling that takes an familiar tale and makes it fresh.

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