Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Europa Report

I have now seen Guardians of the Galaxy twice, in both 2D and 3D. And it still ticks me off that, yes, the BADDEST BITCH IN THE UNIVERSE, Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), has to be rescued by A MAN, and a hapless one at that. Good Lord. Is there NO ESCAPE????

Well, maybe not from Marvel Universe... but there are these cool things called INDIE MOVIES, and I now hereby recommend one: Europa Report was sheer joy from beginning to end.

I had almost forgotten how old shows like The Twilight Zone and the early Star Trek were made: on the cheap, with the emphasis on provocative, interesting scripts, excellent acting and cool, otherworldly ideas. Europa Report (2013) reminds us that IDEAS and DRAMA are behind good sci-fi, and no amount of razzle-dazzle special effects can take the place of these compelling and enthralling story-telling elements.

Europa Report was made on a scant budget (less than $10 million) and occasionally, it does seem like it. But the whole concept of watching an upload of the first mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa (a mission by a private company, of course) is a creative way around not having the razzle-dazzle. As in the original version of ALIEN, we are watching the everyday blahblahblah-boredom of a long space mission, where people might easily become stir crazy and act silly. And then shit happens, somebody goes drifting off into space (I hate it when that happens), and we are suddenly reminded of the tenuousness of life, especially millions of miles away, "sitting in a tin can"--as in David Bowie's famous lyric.

The landing on Europa is terrifying. I felt almost-dizzy watching from that point onward, but in a good, delicious way. I could identify with the crew, who kept saying how they couldn't believe they had actually arrived and how long they had dreamed of it, how long they had waited. As I said in my review of Another Earth, I looooove invented-scenery of enormous planets in the sky, and they give us a great view of Jupiter-in-eclipse, which they see from their landing site on Europa. They are nearly hypnotized by it, as I surely would be.

And one of the best things? When it seems their landing site is on ice too thick to get the samples (the whole reason for the trip), one of the women crew-members announces she is walking out onto the ice to get it herself. NO MAN HAS TO DO IT! It's not even a man's IDEA! Praise the Lord, a woman decides to save the mission! Huzzahs! (And she isn't even the baddest bitch in the universe, as Gamora is, but just another scientist.)

The crew's collective devotion to the mission, in and of itself, is intense and moving; in fact, it is quite wonderful. I often think the science-freaks (those irreverent atheists) have no respect for anything, but after seeing this movie, I get it: they respect the scientific process above all else, even above their own lives. The sample-collector (played by Karolina Wydra) doesn't know if radiation will fry her out there on Europa's surface, but dammit, they need the specimens and she plunges out onto the strange unearthly ice with no hesitations whatsoever. Her voice quavers with emotion when she finds a small one-celled creature in the ice, which she says appears Precambrian. It is like they have found God or something, and it is hard not to imagine the emotional intensity of seeing such a thing, close-up and for real. The acting is fantastic and always believable.

I don't want to ruin it for you, but the ending is brilliant and understated, both scary and amazing (terrifying and wonderful, said some reviewer I now can't find to link). Science is like that, right? The closing of one door and the blasting open of still another you never even knew existed. You can't go back, once you know.

And did I mention that this lovely understated but brilliant ending is made possible by (more huzzahs!) another woman crew member who ain't scared? (And let's be clear: by this point in the story, I would be a raving hysterical maniac, so that is truly saying something.) I can't tell you how proud of her I was.

Just as we involuntarily grimace when Gamora needs rescue (and try to forget that we just saw the baddest bitch in the universe floating around like zero-gravity-Sleeping Beauty, waiting for Chris Pratt to scoop her up in his manly arms), we are unaccountably PROUD when these Europa women kick some scientific ass and do important stuff without waiting for men to tell them.

This tells us how far we have to go.

Check out the movie. If you like drama and don't need a bunch of bells and whistles (as I admit Guardians of the Galaxy has a parcel of em), you won't be disappointed. If you have ever had intense dreams or fantasies of visiting other planets, you will find it mesmerizing, and it will stay with you a long time.

The women come out great, but the science is the thing. It's the real star.


JoJo said...

I heard the Guardians soundtrack is pretty cool though.

So where did you see this Europa movie? Is it on Netflix or cable On Demand? Lost in Space was another show done on the cheap and the first season was especially creative.

Daisy Deadhead said...

I got Europa on Red Box!

Yeah, the Guardians soundtrack is good; its a real trip to finally see the appropriate 3D space-visuals choreographed to David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream"--a lifelong wish granted. :) And totally perfect too.

Also outstanding is "Cherry Bomb" by the Runaways (Joan Jett's first band), which I certainly never expected to hear in a scifi movie.

D. said...

I keep thinking I should go see Guardians again, since there seems to have been stuff I missed,
but there were a couple of scenes of squick which I'd rather not see again.

(Pssssst! Happy birthday! (Since I know you won't see the other b'day wishes elsewhere.)

Daisy Deadhead said...

Ohhhh thank you! :)

Tamen said...

Europa Report was on my watch-list. It's now nudged up towards the top of that list. Thanks.

Dennis the Vizsla said...

This was a terrific movie -- not what I had been expecting based on the trailers, but great nevertheless. And indeed, the women in the movie did Ellen Ripley one better!