Saturday, August 03, 2013

"Europa Report": Is there underwater life beneath the ice on Jupiter's gravity-warmed moon? If so, nothing may ever be the same

Europa Report”, as the title suggests, gives a chronicle of a manned mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to look for life.

The moon is interesting because it is believed that there is a deep subsurface ocean only a few dozen or so miles underneath an icy surface.  There seem to occur water eruptions at the surface, which suggests there could be warm areas where the crust is much thinner.

It’s possible that Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, is even more interesting because it may also have a subsurface ocean, but may have hydrocarbon organic chemistry on its surface under its thick atmosphere. 

The movie, by Sebastian Cordero, supposes that a private company funded the manned expedition of six astronauts to Europa.  After a solar storm, the crew loses contact.  But eventually the fate of the crew is mysteriously transmitted with only one female left.  The narrative of the film is like that of newsreels and segments, but becomes more continuous after the solar storm.  The crew does get to explore the surface, and a specific warm area where the water is near the surface, and make astounding discoveries and met tragedy.  The film becomes quite riveting.  There is real sacrifice and immediate moral dilemma. Not everyone even gets the reward of knowing the final truth.  Without giving away too much, it’s fair to say that the underwater creature(s) might have been capable of “radical hospitality”.

The visual element, going from the inside of the space vehicle to the surface of Europa, and then even underwater, is quite stunning.  There is a genuine mystery and suspense right to the end (even if the heroics of the shrinking crew stretch credulity), and the substance of the film seems much more meaningful than in Hollywood major studio franchises that cost fifty times as much. The film is shot in standard aspect. I suppose 3-D could have been effective.

The six crew members are mostly fit middle-aged adults (two are women).  They are played by Christia Camargo, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolna Wydra, and Sharlto Copley.  Columbia University astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson speaks for himself.

The official site, from Magnet Releasing (Magnolia Pictures) is here.  Magnolia has certainly been releasing controversial films this summer.  However, this film did strike me as a possible “Roadside Attraction”, too. 

The film was shot in New York State or around NYC by Wayfare films.

I saw the film before a nearly sold-out crowd late Saturday afternoon in a medium-sized auditorium at Landmark E St. in Washington DC.  The crowd liked it

The film calls to mind other indie sci-fi dramas where astronauts are stranded, such as “Moon” and “Apollo 18”.  Soon we will have “Gravity”. 

And remember how “2010”, the sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey” ends: Jupiter becomes a sun, and Earthling are told to leave Europa alone.

One of my own screenplays is called “69 Minutes to Titan” (2004).  That’s about how long it would take light to reach it from Earth from a near approach of Saturn.  I posted it online in 2005 and have gotten calls about it, but there are some issues, beyond the scope of today’s review.  I have at least two other scripts that are “easier”.   

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