[NOTE: I may “spoil” some details about the movie. At the same time, that’s a risk of reading reviews to begin with. There, I said it]

Every once in a while, one sees a film which is hard to either condemn or praise. Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report is one such creation. Released in 2013 and certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, the film is about an obviously ill-fated trip to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In fact, it seems any such trip would be a harrowing journey, and tough to return from. One would be headed to Jupiter, after all. Nevertheless, Europa Report will likely keep a viewer’s interest, if they’re into films about space journeys where things go wrong. Otherwise they may struggle with it.

While this has some vague aspects of a sci-fi horror movie, it’s very much a soft-pedaled thriller. There is tension, and one may care for the characters (unlike many straight up horror films where, frankly, you might be glad when some characters go). The result is that Europa Report has more muted drama tension than thrills.

It should come with a fair warning, though: You will not want to watch this film if you are tired, as it is not exactly a fast-paced thrill ride. It’s not a tedious movie, either, but one should be in a certain mindset to appreciate it. There are more daunting situations than haunting ones. It’s about sacrifice more than some endless array of action and horror tropes.

Is it a Monster Movie? Just Ask the Blair Witch

A basic premise of Europa Report is that they are seeking intelligent, alien life, and it may be hostile. However, this movie plays it really subtle. Even as the characters are in panicky situations, they try to be as calm as possible (just as they would be trained). Really, the point isn’t that there’s some fierce presence looming at all times.

It’s sort of the Blair Witch style anticipation, and the feeling of being in a tight situation. This is, in a way, another slight homage to that great (and often hated) ’90s film. Just like with The Blair Witch Project, there are suggestions of a possible menace, but much of Europa Report is about that feeling of being lost, or in a situation far bigger than ourselves.

Okay, So Who’s In It?

Embeth Davidtz is Dr. Unger, or the primary narrator. Horror fans might know her from Army of Darkness. Specifically, she’s the lady Ash says “Give me some sugar baby” to. Also, fans of Dexter‘s first season will recognize Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg. Obviously, Camargo played Dexter’s brother, or the Ice Truck Killer. Here he is not a maniac, but an intrepid hero-type hoping to inspire faith in humanity’s ingenuity.

Of course, there’s a sense that, even if we do discover sentient (or intelligent) life, it might not make that much difference. After all, we have intelligence, but just look at what we’re doing with it (it isn’t all good, folks). Also, are we all going to Jupiter’s moon in the future? Is that part of the plan? Not sure. Anyway, Europa Report also features Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque, Daniel Wu as William Xu, Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan, and a few others (including a surprise appearance by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in archival footage form).

Final Thoughts on Europa Report

I like “Europa Report” mostly because it doens’t try to do anything special. At the same time, that’s probably a mark against it (oddly enough). It’s one of the weird struggles of artists anywhere. You want to essentially be yourself in the vision you present, yet you still must cater to an audience. This film, while well done, could have maybe benefited from more conventional, blockbuster-style action.

I actually hate typing those words, yet nevertheless honestly feel that way. It seems like it could have been more epic in scope somehow, and maybe should have had a less restrained, less somber tone. Again, I feel like a real jerk for saying it, but there it is. It honestly seems like more could have been done with it It’s by no means a bad movie, and I’ll probably even watch it again at some point to see if I missed something. Nevertheless, I doubt this will be most people’s favorite, even among space movie fans.

What are your thoughts on Europa Report? Have you ever fought a space octopus? Let us know in the comments!

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Wade Wanio is an author.

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