Monday, August 12, 2013

Review Trifecta Part Three: Europa Report

Switching up with the final part of the Review Trifecta. The final installment is a film instead of a record. If you plan on watching this movie, beware of spoilers. I didn't really know how to review this movie without dropping a few. Sorry.

It's the big question - Are we alone?
This question gets asked directly in the movie Europa Report, which I saw over the weekend. I'm not currently rolling in the money but I did dish out $7 to see it online through Google Play. I was so impressed by the movie that I rewatched it several times - until I had worn out the rental limits. I hope to own the movie when it is released on DVD - it's that good.
The plot surrounds a privately funded mission (it's subtlely said that NASA and other state run space programs had really dropped the ball on exploration) to the moon of Europa, a moon of the massive gas planet Jupiter that is suspected to be carrying a large ocean. Usually, wherever we find water, we find life and finding life elsewhere in the universe could help dull down alot of our species' anxiety about our strange, lonely place in the cosmos.
The actors in Europa Report aren't well known but their performance is so genuine. When a readout shows that simple algae is on the surface of Europa, one of the astronauts looks almost stunned with himself as he says, "We did it." Camera shots of the ocean below Europa's icey crust look just like any large body of water we're used to here. 
Finally, at the end (I did warn about spoilers) the astronauts really come in to contact with the life that inhabits Europa. As the ship, which may be advanced but not really quite equipped for a trip so far, begins to collapse in to Europa's massive oceans - the life that inhabits this moon shows itself.
It makes a whole lot of sense - Earth has a few locales of life that lives without direct exposure to the sun, at the very bottom of the ocean. The writers seem to suggest that the massive planet of Jupiter provides a great deal of heat for this moon. The emotional impact is very high - the woman in charge of the Europa One operation tears up as she expresses that the crew on the ship, who lost several members in the process, made the most impactful discovery in human history and by simply discovering the equivalent of marine life and algae elsewhere in the solar system, changed the game in which human beings think about themselves in the universe.
There are a couple flaws - Europa apparently has perfect gravity, which isn't really explained or explored. Also, as they pass the moon, the narrator illustrates that going past the moon is the farthest any human being has ever gone in the solar system. Even if a private independent company did this, it doesn't seem likely that anyone would ever opt for putting a man or woman all the way on Europa before ever exploring our nearest neighbor.
Likewise, after watching, I couldn't help but think how much more impactful this would have been as a miniseries or TV show on PBS or somewhere similar. It ends abruptly and one just has to imagine how average people on earth must have responded.
Discoveries like what occurs in this hypothetical movie would turn the world upside down. I've followed the topic alot - many creationist websites argue that the lack of any evidence of life off of earth validates that God created this earth for man. One has to wonder why God would create an empty galaxy alongside but that may be beside the point. Such a discovery would make the universe more comprehensible and change the sense we have of our own existence.
Science fiction isn't an easy genre - if one just wanted to make a successful film, a crime drama or romantic comedy would be easier. It's easy for science fiction to seem goofy and to lack real emotional impact. Director Sebastian Cordero broke that trend - Europa Report is realistic, terrifying and moving. No easy task.

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