Europa Report is the story of the first manned expedition to explore Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The film is of the “found footage” genre, which uses footage from the mission, sent back to Earth to tell the story.
The privately funded mission has six scientists going to Europa to look for life. On the way, one scientist dies in outer space while saving the life of another.
When the remaining scientists reach Europa, there are complications when landing, complications when looking for life on the ice-encrusted moon, and complications when trying to take off. All of these disasters threaten the survival of the team. If they are not able to take off, they will never be able to inform Earth of their findings.
The movie is well acted and has a few familiar faces: Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness) and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9) and Michael Nyqvist (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.) The other actors are mostly unknown to American audiences. This can be a good thing, though; sometimes huge movie stars can be distracting in roles if they can’t disappear into them.
One thing to note is that there isn’t any unnecessary conflict between the scientists. The conflict of being in a harsh, alien environment and trying to survive it is enough to drive the plot.
The film looks great. The props and sets look convincing and the science is plausible. Gravity works like it should, and allowances for generating gravity in outer space are fully explained.
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Worth a look if you like science fiction films dealing with the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
Skip it if science fiction is not your thing, or you don’t like the found footage genre.
In contrast, Last Days on Mars is similar to Europa Report in that both deal with survival in harsh, unforgiving, extraterrestrial environments. LDoM starts out as science fiction, but becomes a horror film about half way through.
Last Days on Mars is the story of the first human exploration of the planet Mars. On the last day of their mission, one of the scientists thinks he may have discovered fossilized evidence of bacterial life. The scientist lies to the commander about his it and sets out to confirm his discovery as he wants all the credit for himself. When the scientist reaches the discovery site, the ground gives way and he disappears into a large crater.
The rest of the team scrambles to rescue the scientist. But what they find when they reach the crater threatens the survival of the team as the hour for their departure looms closer.
The cast is good; Liev Shrieber, Elias Kotas, and Olivia Williams are good as always but I can’t help but feel that their talent has been wasted on this rather mediocre horror film, which describes this film very well. It’s not that it is terrible, in fact, it is shot and edited well and the acting is competent. The special effects are good, and the sets and equipment look real. But I can’t help thinking that something isn’t right; the film switches gears about halfway through and goes from being straight from hard scifi to horror/survival, with a very implausible plot twist.
The film itself is rather derivative of two different horror genres but doesn’t really combine them well. Sometimes I can suspend disbelief, but I feel this film went too far in requiring this from the audience. There were several “really?” moments for me when watching the film.
I feel like Olivia Williams’ character was written to be unnecessarily contrary to increase tension among the characters and drive the plot. In a survival situation such as being on Mars, it seems to me that only a crew who was able to get along for long periods time together would be chosen to increase their chances for survival. The conflict between the scientists and the environment should be enough.
Another thing that bothered me is that the gravity on Mars is about one third of the Earth’s gravity. A person who weighs 100 pounds on the Earth weighs about 38 pounds on Mars. It appeared that everyone in the film was operation under Earth-like gravity conditions rather than Martian.
Another annoying thing about the film was that the vehicles always seemed to run out of energy just when the plot called for it, just to increase tension.
But don’t take my word for it, you may like it. Click on the following link to place a hold:
Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Worth a look if you like science fiction films or horror films. Or even a mash up of both.
Skip it if you don’t like movies with a mediocre plot or glaring inconsistencies.
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic