Europa Report

 

Just when I thought I was over the whole found footage film trend comes Europa Report to remind me that it can still be effective when done well. Europa Report is a smaller, quieter sci-fi movie dealing with a manned mission to the Europa moon of Jupiter to search for life. Pockets of water have been detected beneath the frozen surface, and where there is water there is usually life. Europa Report tells the story of a six person international team of astronauts sent on a long-range mission to gather data from Europa. The story is told through footage from various cameras aboard their vessel as well as through interview and news footage of team members on earth.

Two elements work to elevate Europa Report above the glut of found footage copy cats that came in the wake of the Blair Witch phenomenon. First, the film tries to take its premise and associated science seriously. This is not a flashy film, and some might even find it slow. With several nods to 2001, and the often static photography the premise requires, the film attempts to depict the mission realistically and keeps the suspense and interest thorough grounded character and plot developments as opposed to bombast.

Secondly, I found myself generally caring for the astronauts. There are heartbreaking moments in the film, as well as terrifying ones, and examples of courage in the face of the unknown. I found it all rather resonant due to the fact that I felt as though I could believe in these people and their mission. When things begin to go wrong, it hurts.

Europa Report also jumbles the chronology at times for dramatic effect, and the foreshadowing created provides just enough information to create dread while leaving enough holes to allow the tale to still unspool with surprises. We are often provided with mission time stamps and other critical information on the camera or news views, so at times you must pay careful attention to follow the chronology.

Europa Report does borrow from other films in the genre, including the aforementioned 2001 and Blair Witch, as well as the Abyss to name a few. However, the film approaches its story and characters with respect and conviction, and the end result is an engaging hard sci-fi film; something we rarely see these days. This mission is worth embarking on.

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In Defense of Prometheus

“This is just another tomb”

In Prometheus, when Holloway discovers the amazing  “canister” room with the  giant head statue on LV-223 , he is disappointed. He had a certain experience in his mind about what to expect here. He envisioned benevolent creators, still alive and waiting to greet him and share their wonders. What he found was something completely different, yet still an earth shattering discovery of epic proportions. However, he is unable to accept things being so different from his expectations, and staring at such wonders is left to proclaim “This is just another tomb”

I believe audiences similarly had set expectations when they entered the theater to see Prometheus. They were looking for a suspense and action onslaught that served as a direct prequel to the Alien series. When Prometheus did not give them exactly what they anticipated, the turned on it, declaring it “just another crappy sci-fi movie.” I however, found Prometheus to be an amazing piece of cinema, with a tone more  akin to 2001 then to Aliens.  Prometheus deals with heavy questions of faith, destiny, and religion…even bio warfare… all on a gorgeous palette. Pepper the heady ideas with some action and terror, and I feel you have a riveting sci-fi classic.

Re-watching Prometheus last night, I could not help but notice that religion is a major theme in this film. The voyage in Prometheus is essentially a search for our makers. The notion of arriving on LV-223 on Christmas is clearly not accidental. Let’s back things up a bit….In Prometheus it is revealed that the Engineers, the race of super beings found on LV-223, are our genetic ancestors. The prologue of the film shows an Engineer being sent to earth to sacrifice himself for the sake of engineering a new race of beings–man. It logically follows that in the world of Prometheus, the engineers are our “Gods”. As evidenced by the various cave paintings that Holloway and Shaw have discovered, they have visited us from time to time to check on our progress.

Later in the film, it is revealed that the stockpile of the genetic ooze–this primordial sludge that brings on evolution of some sort….may in fact be a biological weapon, and the ship that crashed on LV-223 was headed for earth. It seems our makers may have decided that we were not progressing well after all. They are going to wipe us out, most likely through the spawning of a new creature, a super predator designed to wipe us out. Of course this super predator will eventually lead to the xenomorph creatures of the Alien franchise, but that is for a later time.  The question Prometheus asks at this point is what have we done to cause our makers to turn on us in this way? Is it the way we treat each other? Is it our disregard for the state of the planet?  Or perhaps something more unsettling? Back in the canister room there is an amazing mural that resembles some sort of creature–perhaps somewhere between a xeno and an engineer…in a crucified pose. Crucifixion clearly is a religious symbol originating on earth. Why would these creatures be using it? Well, if these engineers are our “Gods”, who have visited us from time to time as our shepherds, is it possible we mistreated one? Perhaps we crucified it? And perhaps this godlike creator being, misunderstood and crucified by a faction of man, became an inspiration for an entire earth religion?   

I could go on and on. I did not even get into the Christmas conception, by an infertile woman, of an evolving species. Nor did I discuss Shaw’s dream discussions with her father about heaven, and paradise, and what one “chooses to believe”. My point is there are so many layers to Prometheus that I feel it gave viewers way more to contemplate than they were prepared for. I hope with time more folks will discover the beauty, depth, and power of Prometheus. I know I will be there at the opening for the next film in the series, hoping for even more to chew on.