The found footage genre has been growing into one of the most unique genres in film. While it debuted back in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project, this technique truly hit its height with the film Paranormal Activity. The 15,000 dollar flick made a monstrous 107.9 million at the box office, and caught Hollywood executives’ eyes as this being a low risk/high reward type of film. After the style was used excessively in horror fare like The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, and the many sequels to Paranormal Activity, filmmakers began to get creative. Now found footage films range across all sorts of genres from the surprise superhero hit Chronicle to the dynamite cop drama End of Watch. Perhaps the most ambitious effort yet in the growing genre is Europa Report.
Taking a genre, sci-fi, that is wildly regarded for its big effects and universes, Europa Report tries to challenge the norm by creating a unique universe with a shoestring budget using found footage. The last attempt to create a science fiction found footage flick was Apollo 18, which was a nice attempt but ended up getting lost in space. Europa Report may not have cracked the code, but is able to meet some of its ambitions.
Europa Report follows a crew of astronauts on the first ever expedition to Jupiter, and in search for other life in the universe, but perhaps they are uncovering something that was never meant to be discovered.
The visual aesthetics for the movie are groundbreaking when you think about it. Director Sebastian Cordero and his production team have created a unique universe with such a minuscule budget. Never was there a moment in which the film felt cheaply made, which is truly a sign of a well-created world.
Cordero also able to use the found footage to the best of its ability. The documentary style similar to District 9 is really well done here, featuring interviews from scientists, even one played by Dan Fogler. By showing off the film in this way, the film feels far more realistic and current, which was the task at hand.
The film has some genuinely powerful moments of drama, capturing the true claustrophobia of space and pure disconnect of being away from civilization for so long. A few moments, especially one brilliant scene with Sharlto Copley, have a true raw emotion that really has not been seen in most films this year so far.
The film takes its time, which is great. At around 90 minutes long, Europa Report is able to really slowly develop these characters and situations, which adds a whole layer of tension to it all. As each second goes by, the underlying feelings are getting more and more big and potent, and the film does a great job of capturing that. Europa Report also is able to stay engaging and entertaining throughout, which is tough for a very slowly paced film.
The screenplay here is weak, especially compared to the hard work put into the film’s aesthetics. Scribe Philip Gelatt really creates a by-the-numbers script, featuring many space and science fiction cliches that have been seen and done so many times before. It’s even more disappointing when the film seems to go in a very horror–esque direction, which was a let down considering the direction the film was going previously.
This mesh in general of science fiction and horror is just such an odd combination, and very jarring considering the very realistic direction the film was going. The final act especially seemed to really go off the rails in a way that didn’t feel genuine or real, instead feeling rather far too cinematic for what it’s supposed to be.
The characters in the film are very thinly sketched out. When creating great science fiction, one of the most memorable parts is the characters that are established, which adds a human element aside from all of the crazy events. Aside from a great performance from the talented Copley, the rest of the crew feel very cliche and undefined. They weren’t even stereotypes, but rather just blank slates of a character, which is a letdown considering how great characters could have made this a great movie.
A side complaint; while the style is rather well done, it felt a bit inconsistent at times. After a first half an hour that used it frequently, it afterwards only randomly cues interviews that just feel a bit out of place at times, and it seems like they should have either kept using them, or stopped.
From its skyscraper highs to its lowly lows, Europa Report is a mostly mixed bag, but is able to stay engaging and engrossing throughout enough to be worth a watch.
Do a Shot: for each cliche
Take a Drink: when you think each effect is real
Take a Drink: when you think Sharlto Copley is going to fooking swear like he did in District 9.
You’ve been fooking warned!