Movie Review: Europa Report

europa reportI got stuck in DFW for what should have been an hour but ended up being the better part of a day.  Since it felt like I had taken a journey of several hundred million miles, the only fitting thing to do was watch Europa Report on the way back.  After getting all my work done in the Admiral’s Club during the 6+ hour wait, what else was there to do?

This is a different kind of movie, so it’s worth preparing yourself for that.  Europa Report is not an action thriller or another episode of Universe Works.  It’s more like Jaws meets Apollo 13.  Remember how you saw the actual shark just a microscopic percentage of the movie?  Same thing here, but no shark; the actual plot is what gets teased.  There are a lot of hints, innuendos and suggestions about what’s going on throughout the entire movie but you don’t get the full picture until the last scene.  I like that it was downplayed and the science isn’t constantly whacking you in the face like a forced lecture to explain every shot.

There are a lot of folks who have panned the movie for various reasons.  I’m not about to give any spoilers away but it seems to come down to personal taste.  This is a documentary-style film without the shaky-cam effects, which is always nice.  The eye candy is spectacular and the sense of “holy crap, this is a long journey” comes through well without beating you over the head with it.  The technical accuracy touted by the producers was a big reason I rented this bad boy (it’s available for rental on iTunes before it opens in theaters on August 2) and I was not disappointed.

Well, except once, if you can even call it disappointment.  I think it’s funny, niggling and in no way detracts from the movie’s forward motion, but I’m a nerd and I have to call this out (and I’m surprised Phil Plait hasn’t yet, though he’s all busy being popular at Comic Con and stuff).  I live 25 miles north of that damned convention but can never steal the time to attend, so I didn’t get to see the Phil’s panel; perhaps it was discussed there…

At approximately 26 minutes into the movie we pan through the scene with the lander on the surface of Europa, sunlight (or Jupiter light) illuminating the scene, one of the team reports

Surface temp is holding at absolute 0, prelim surface data has us on a bed of what looks like ice 11

Now what’s cool about that quote is that it is very likely to be Ice XI.  I’d always wondered about what kind of water ice might be out there in the solar system but was too lazy to look it up.  Thanks for the excuse!  Somebody did their homework, but they forgot to check the thermometer.  There’s no way the surface of Europa, lit by reflected sunlight off Jupiter and recently disturbed by a giant rocket, was “holding at absolute 0.”  Heck, we haven’t even achieved absolute zero in a lab yet (close, though, and potentially impossible to reach) and the coldest place in space is still a full 1 degree Kelvin.  Balmy.  The surface of Europa is most assuredly NOT absolute 0.

Other than that, I found no fault, though I’m not that smart and probably don’t know what to look for.  The bottom line for that scene is to drive the point home that it is freaking cold outside.  Really.  Damned.  Cold.  The slight departure from precision accuracy doesn’t detract from that point at all and I should be thanking the writers for giving me an excuse to mention their very well done flick.

At 10pm, I was greeted by this scene in DFW:

DFW ScareStaying up to watch the movie was a good decision.  Maybe some of you sharper-eyed folks can spot more errata on your next forced-layover or after it opens in theaters.  From what I’ve seen, you’re going to have to look pretty hard to find those Easter eggs.

Clear Skies!


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One Response to Movie Review: Europa Report

  1. John Marek says:

    There was another reference to the temperature shortly after the absolute zero remark. When the “icequake” started shaking the module, they said it would get worse as it got colder. There’s no colder than absolute zero.

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