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18 July 2013  |  Written by Helen O'Hara  

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Europa Report

It's relatively rare for a science fiction movie to involve actual science, but Europa Report is one such. The panel was hosted by astronomer Dr Phil Plait, and the footage backed up the claims that this film takes science seriously. Director Sebastian Cordero, producer Ben Browning, composer Bear McCreary, Karolina Wydra, and science consultants Kevin Hand and Steve Vance made up the panel.

The trailer, which is already online, shows the film starting as another space exploration before things go badly wrong when the expedition drills beneath the ice. It also suggests that at least one character goes adrift in space without a tie to his ship, making a match this year with Gravity. People, if you're in space, please remember to tie your safety laces.

"We had an idea that it would be cool to do a movie about first contact that didn't cheat anything. Initially we didn't know if it would be on Earth or if we would go to it," said Browning. "Then we thought, in the likeliest scenario, where is life? That led us to Europa. But the science had to be right, the journey had to be right, the ship had to look right."

We learned that Europa's ice shell is 10-15km thick, and then under that there's a global ocean that's 100km deep, so Europa has 2 to 3 times the volume of all the water on Earth - and where there's water, there could be life. And you thought Comic-Con was just about costumes and colourful T-shirts!

The second clip showed the probe landing on the moon's surface (based on actual imagery of the moon), with a stately procession of quiet ship and probe moving to their target, to a McCreary's music and a cracking parade of voices from crew and control as the probe approaches touchdown. It's all green lights and plain sailing - until at the last moment something gives the crew a shock. Aaaand of course that's where they stopped it.

"The thing that was very important," said Cordero, "is that the film is constructed as a faux documentary in the near future. On one hand, we wanted it to feel extremely realistic, and at the same time you want to keep that thrill, that entertainment value, so the build-up is crucial."

The third clip saw Wydra's character Katya out on the moon's surface analysing samples of the surface ice (since Jupiter's pull distorts the moon and throws ice from the ocean bed up to the surface, so the theory goes) and facing danger from rising radiation levels as she does so. Filmed in extreme close-up in the helmet cam, this has a really claustrophobic feel, and as her crewmates back on the ship watch her, the tension was visible. Wydra said, "The reason I wanted to play her was the passion she has and the love for what she does; she was willing to risk her life for research."

McCreary's score is "one of the coolest tunes I've ever written", he says, and explains that he justifies a beautiful orchestral score on the basis that - in the film's fictional world - the footage was assembled by the company behind the voyage to Europa, so they'd want to tell a heroic story.

Europa Report apparently passed muster with the scientists of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but most audiences have to wait a little longer. It is already available for download in the US from the App store, but gets a limited theatrical release on August 2. There's no word yet on a UK release.

Browse concept art from the film.


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