After a week of watching Alien prequels and searching the internet for theories and information on them, I felt the urge to watch more space movies. Last summer I went through a similar phase but that was during the 6 month dead period of this blog. Last night, the first night of a long memorial day weekend, I sat immobile for an unhealthy amount of time and re-watched 4 space movies.

Europa Report – Runtime 1:30:07

Europa Report has been on Netflix for a while now and its thumbnail resided in my recommended section for quite some time before I watched it. For being such a low-budget independent movie it has an incredible cast. Released in 2013, Europa Report was directed by Sebastian Cordero (I haven’t seen any of his other movies) and starred Christian Camargo (Dexter, The Hurt Locker), Michael Nyqvist (Colonia, John Wick), and Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium, Chappie). Even the unfamiliar actors impressed me such as Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Anamaria Marinca.

All of the difficult acting was given to the best actor in the movie, Michael Nyqvist while the others played believable characters.

The 6 actors I listed above made up the small crew who embarked on a privately funded mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is known to be covered in ice, but many speculate that open water with the ability to house life lies beneath the ice.

The less that is known about this movie before the better the viewing experience will be. The first time I watched this movie I was shocked and pleasantly surprised on what occurred.

Europa Report watches like a found footage documentary. The small ship that the 6 crew members live on is filled with cameras recording essentially everything on the ship. In between cuts of the found footage are testimonials from the scientists who funded and aided the mission from the ground creating a well paced and unique viewing experience.

Some of the dialogue was beyond corny and the CG isn’t the greatest (the ice drill especially) but I thoroughly enjoyed Europa Report.

The Last Days on Mars – Runtime 1:38:30

I originally watched The Last Days on Mars last summer on Netflix, but now the movie is streaming on Hulu. It’s interesting how these movies just cycle through all of the stream services.

Also released in 2013, The Last Days on Mars stars Lieve Schreiber (Salt, Goon), Elias Koteas (Shooter), Romola Garai, and Olivia Williams.

The Last Days on Mars focuses on a 8 member crew who has been stationed on Mars searching for life for 6 months. The crew is just 19 hours away from going back to the orbiting ship named Aurora and heading home. After spending 6 months together while finding nothing significant on the planet, the crew has become hostile and easily irritable towards each other.

One of the crew members lies about needing to fix a panel to get approval from the captain to go just before dark to find what he believes is to be life. He wanted to be recognized as the first scientist to first discover life outside of earth. He was successful in doing so, but he became infected and turned into a zombie. The rest of the movie shows the crew trying to survive the zombie attack on the final night of their mission.

This is a mediocre zombie movie that stands out only because of its Mars gimmick. Like any zombie movie, most of the exposition is used developing the characters and setting up the rules of the zombies (how to kill them, how do people get infected, how long does it take to turn, etc.). Annoyingly several scientists did non scientist things further escalating the terrible situation.

Liev stands out as the best actor in the movie playing a character who just wants to go home and is fighting off mental demons from a traumatic event on the Aurora that isn’t fully explained. The Last Days on Mars had a lot of potential and featured good special effects and imagery, but it fell into the stale zombie movie tropes.

Approaching the Unknown – Runtime 1:30:17

Space movies are cool because they often involve a small cast which forces the plot to be built on strong characterization. The rare one man (or woman) movies like The Shallows, and Approaching the Unknown rely entirely on having an interesting character.

Mark Strong plays the very astronaut-ly sounding Captain William Stanaforth who embarks on a one way, one man mission to Mars. Stanaforth created a machine that can turn dirt into water, something that makes surviving on Mars much easier. The device takes the hydrogen and oxygen out of the dirt and reorganizes the elements to form water. He wants to use the device to bring life and to colonize Mars.

Like all space movies, something horrible goes wrong and Stanaforth has to be resilient and courageous (or weak) to overcome it.

Luke Wilson plays the ground control coordinator (Skinny) who checks in on Stanaforth from time to time, and Sanaa Lathan plays Captain Emily Maddox who embarks on the same journey to live with Stanaforth a few weeks after he departed.

Other than the appearances of Skinny and Maddox who only ever appear on a monitor in the ship of Stanaforth and two other men for just a few minutes, Strong is the only actor in this movie. Watching him change and deal with mental fatigue while in the void of space is this movies strongest attribute.

Spoiler – The space suit that Stanaforth wears at the end of the movie is so strange that it stood out to me. I wonder if it was inspired by something else as it looked primitive.

Sunshine – Runtime 1:47:27

Europa Report and Approaching the Unknown are science fiction but they prioritize the science over the fiction. Sunshine is the opposite.

Released in 2007 and directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd, Ex Machina), Sunshine is about a space ship named the Icarus II that is carrying a massive nuclear bomb that was designed to explode in the center of the dying sun to reignite it saving live on earth.

The Icarus II has a massive shield that protects the ship from the suns rays as it approaches it. That plot is ridiculous and makes very little sense in the realm of science.

The cast for the big budget movie is impressive staring Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy), Chris Evans (The Perfect Score, Celluar, The Iceman), Rose Byrne (Spy, 28 Weeks Later, The Place Beyond the Pines), Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis (Training Day, Live Free or Die Hard) Hiroyuki Sanada (Rush Hour 3, Lost), Benedict Wong (Prometheus, The Martian), and a cameo from Mark Strong.

This movie is much more Hollywood and big budget compared to the first three movies that I watched.

The event that causes the major conflict is just fucking stupid and should have never happened on a space ship like the Icarus II. The relationships between the crew members were over acted and under developed creating a massive epic space movie that felt empty.

I never was able to take this movie seriously and get engrossed as the premise made no sense and was outside of the realm of possibility. I did like the design of the space suits, and the unpredictable twist at the end, but overall this movie is a dumb action Hollywood movie in an unbelievable science fiction scenario.

Total runtime – 6:26:21

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