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BMZ Review: Roving Mars
By Paula Tagle

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Roving Mars
Written by: Paula Tagle
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: April 17, 2006

     

Category: Reviews

Walt Disney Pictures' latest offering, Roving Mars, tracks the journey of two Mars rovers, "Spirit" and "Opportunity," from their assembly to their launch and to their ultimate landing on the red planet.  George Butler (Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure) directs this somewhat unevenly paced film.  A moderately drab beginning is only uplifted by some wonderful images of space and Mars itself.

Like the precise and particular movements of the rovers themselves, the film's opening scenes move slowly, but without the rovers' assurance.  Besides 70mm film, Mars also utilizes 35mm and high definition video.  The differing formats act as a glaring marker of the large format's superior image quality, making much of the film's beginning uninspired.  Coupled with the inclusion of tiresome interviews more suitable for a TV documentary, the assembly of the rovers is as tedious as you would expect them to be, littered with technical problems, hiccups and setbacks that mean nothing to the average viewer.

Once the rovers are assembled and ready for launch, the film does pick up.  We are given a wonderful launch sequence displaying the incredible force necessary to eject an object out of Earth's atmosphere.  Lacking any sort of narration, various stages of rocket undress propel the first rover out into space.  When the rovers finally do leave Earth, we are given only computer-generated images of outer space and Mars, which unsurprisingly are a lot more exciting than what was filmed with actual IMAX cameras.

NASA scientists and engineers elucidate the difficulty of landing on Mars: two-thirds of Mars missions have failed, but incredibly, not one, but both rovers land successfully.  Alone on a barren planet, the film imbues these rovers with human characteristics, "Spirit" is the troublesome child, while "Opportunity" is dubbed "Little Miss Perfect."  We come to realize the triumph of these tiny robots as they gather and study rocks, and sadly comprehend that sometime soon, from lack of warmth or too much dust, their energy will one day run out and they will no longer be able to wake up from a cold Martian night.

Considering the wealth of untapped knowledge on the Mars surface, the film's time on Mars is incredibly short.  We are left with only a romantic image of a diligent, but tiny rover on a desolate planet.  A competent score by Philip Glass rounds out the film adding to the drama and tension so inherent in these Mars missions.  The film, though so leaden in its introduction, does supply an incredible glimpse of Mars, a hopeful stepping stone to future films on our neighboring planet.

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