National Geographic Journey to Europa DVD Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 2.5
Video 8.5
Audio 7.0
Special Features 7.0
Total 4.5
Distributor: Madman
Classification: G
Minutes: 50
Reviewer: Simon Black

4.5


National Geographic
Journey to Europa

Jupiter’s four Galilean moons have always held something of a fascination for me, if only because they seem like such a study in contrasts; volcanic furnace-like Io, crystalline Europa, icy Ganymede, rocky, heavily cratered Callisto. 

It was thus with sizable anticipation I approached the new Madman/National Geographic joint venture Journey to Europa, presuming, logically enough, that the release would constitute an insightful documentary on this watery satellite, replete with history, the story of its discovery and plenty of satellite imagery to round out the exposition. 

Instead the principal focus of this short feature is the rather strange and seemingly moot question of whether or not this particular moon could sustain human life.  The footage is mostly CGI, with plenty of enactment of a hypothetical spacecraft landing on Europa in search of a hypothetical subterranean water supply capable of sustaining hypothetical human habitation, coupled with interview footage of ‘preeminent underwater cave explorer and inventor’ Bill Stone whom, we are informed, is ‘developing robots to carry out that mission one day.’  One of Stone’s underwater vehicles is tested, and plentiful CGI footage posits how a descendant of the vehicle might fare on a mission to Europa. 

I’m all for deep space exploration and a solid understanding of the solar system which we inhabit, but this one was a bit niche even for me.  Coupled with a fairly arbitrary premise was a rather bland presentation and some patently absurd, thoroughly melodramatic voiceover work, of which the following is just the merest sample: 

‘Europa: an icy world that’s a prime target in the search for alien life’ 

‘Travel to the future and search for life – on an alien moon’ 

‘In a universe so vast, there are too many stars to count’ 

‘The day we find alien life it won’t matter if it’s intelligent’ 

etc etc.  The facts offered were nothing that isn’t readily available on Wikipedia, the voiceover artist was so grave it lent a patently comical air to proceedings and the premise veered between the redundant and the hypothetical.  Not sure who this one is aimed at; I love science/space/astronomy documentaries in general and I fucking hated it – whoever commissioned Journey to Europa, it wasn’t an intelligent life form. 

Special Features

In order to plump out the feature’s slender 50-minute runtime Nat Geo have tacked on an additional 50-minute documentary entitled Space Launch: Along for the Ride which, interestingly enough, comprises a behind the scenes look at a manned space launch from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome.  We meet the three men who’ll be journeying on the rocket, observe their final days of training, learn how the spacecraft is assembled and prepared, go inside Mission Control in Moscow and count down to blast-off with the project’s flight director and the rest of the aeronautical crew.  It’s a fascinating and truly compelling expose into the inner workings of a space launch, and so wholly superior to Journey to Europa that it’s bewildering this excellent doco was relegated to the status of supplementary feature.  At any rate the set essentially constitutes a double feature, and the excellent, insightful Space Launch more than compensates for the silliness inherent in the main feature. 






 
 



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