Review: Europa Report

Posted: November 17, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Science Fiction
Tags: , , ,

 

europareport copy(Europa Report, 2013, directed by Sebastian Cordero, starring Christian Camargo, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

 

“Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.” —Joseph Heller, Catch 22

 

Meet Europa Report, the science fiction equivalent of skeet shooting; its 89 minutes feel like 89 years.

One can forgive quite a bit in a sci-fi movie if it has an interesting premise, is well acted, has sympathetic protagonists and believable villains, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. A good current example is Elysium, which has a ridiculous central plot premise–essentially that those controlling a computer system with nearly godlike powers wouldn’t have the sense to back up its operating system or data–but has all of the other features which ultimately make it a dumb but enjoyable sci-fi flick. Even the recent Oblivion, a truly awful film, at least has the virtue of occasionally being so stupid it’s unintentionally funny.

Europa Report has none of these saving graces. It’s a faux-documentary with story scenes interspersed with cringe-worthy, solemn narration scenes, which gives it a disjointed feel. The most irritating feature of this film, though, is the manner in which it’s shot and edited: frequent video and audio freezes and breakups, jittery hand-held shots a la Blair Witch Project, very frequent cuts, pointless multi-monitor screen shots,  one deliberately off-kilter camera angle after another, plus too-frequent closeups. All of this is apparently intended to convey a claustrophobic  sense of being in a spacecraft in distress. It doesn’t.  Instead, this herky-jerky auditory and visual assault takes the viewer out of the story by  incessantly calling attention to itself. At many points, I found myself muttering, “Okay, okay. We get the idea. Just get on with the goddamn story.”

Europa Report, of course, has more to it than unbearable camera work and editing: it also has the usual features of bad sci-fi flicks, notably  getting the science wrong and having supposedly smart characters doing dumb things. The most obvious example of getting the science wrong–and something that goes back to schlock 1950s sci-fi–is that “mission control” and the spacecraft communicate instantaneously while it’s en route to Jupiter. There are other science problems as well, but there’s no point in going into them. Likewise with the smart characters doing dumb things; the two most important instances of this occur in the latter part of the film, and describing them would introduce major spoilers, so I won’t. But have no doubt, if you’re paying attention, it’s palm-to-the-forehead time in a couple of places.

What little dialogue there is, is dry to the point of desiccation. This is a major reason the male characters are near-zeros. One can’t blame this on the actors, though, because they have virtually nothing to work with. The portrayals of the female characters, however, aren’t boring–they’re excruciating. They either involve gross over-acting (in particular, Wydra in a pivotal smart-character-doing-dumb-things scene), but more often involve under-acting to the point of being totally flat. This is likely the fault of director Cordero, because Davidtz, Marinca, and Wydra cannot all possibly be as bad as they seem to be here.

Watching Europa Report is the cinematic equivalent of spending eternity shooting skeet with people you hate.

Not recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover.

 

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