(George Butler - 2006)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (USA)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Feature film: 1080p / MPEG-2
1 disc: BD-25 single-layer
English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 kHz/24-bit)
English, French & Spanish DD 5.1
English SDH, French and Spanish
• Featurette: Mars: Past, Present & Future (25 minutes)
• Mars and Beyond ~ Episode from 1957 TV show, Disneyland (53 minutes)
Standard Blu-ray case.
Release Date: July 31, 2007
First produced for IMAX presentation in 2006, this Blu-ray presentation is being simultaneously released in SD-DVD. The award-winning documentary about the Mars Rover project was directed by George Butler, who goes all the way back to Pumping Iron, the 1977 film that gave us those two incredible hulks, Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger. More recently, he directed The Endurance, about Ernest Shackelton and his exploration of Antarctica, which won all kinds of documentary awards.
The Score Card
The Movie : 7
Prepare to receive transmission from Talos IV. Follow the adventures of the robots, Spirit & Opportunity, from conception, through development and testing, to launch, landing and exploration. Meet the JPL Rover team in the main feature and the bonus featurette as they scratch their virtual heads trying to sort out the challenges of decelerating from 12,000 MPH to 12MPH to land a robot intact and operational on a planet surface 40,000,000 miles away. Live documentary footage on Earth and on Mars is cleverly interspersed with CG simulations.
Image : 8.5~9.5
The image - always in HD, though not always 16x9 - is variable in quality, though never less than very good. Some of the image quality in the lab is like looking at a live video feed. The Mars "footage" is good but, for some unaccountable reason, has a persistent reddish cast to it. The film won the 2007 Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects (what else!) in a Special Venue Project, presumably for the CG footage.
Audio & Music : 9
As you might expect there is some serious live action sound here, especially at launch. BTW, there is an interesting feature to the BD that showcases those scenes in the "Ultimate in High Definition Picture & Sound." I should say so.
Empathy : 8
It's a documentary, after all, but an inspirational one. The image and sound – the entire enterprise – boggles the imagination. Your tax dollars at work.
Operations : 8
No complaints here. Very straightforward.
Extras : 8In Mars: Past, Present & Future, members of the JPL Rover team recollect their work on the project with students from the "Imagine Mars" program. For me, having seen it in its original airing, the highlight bonus feature (actually 13 minutes longer than the main attraction) is the 1957 Tomorrowland episode from the Disneyland TV series. Walt himself introduces the show, as he did most every week. It explores our investigations into the universe, such as they were popularly understood fifty years ago. The animated material that gets the show under way is imaginative and satirical. It's kind of amusing to note that the beginning of the Rover Mars feature is not unlike that of the Mars & Beyond TV episode.
July 29th, 2007
Enter the Dragon