Roving Mars

DVD & Blu-Ray Covered In Review

Cover Art and Menu: 6/10
Well, the cover art was a shot of Mars. It is a decent enough cover, if not somewhat generic. After watching the film I would have liked a shot of the surface of the planet, with one of the rovers doing its thing, but overall the cover art is decent. The menus are again decent – nothing to write about (although I am), but not horrible either. There is a snapshot of the menu at the top left of this review.

Extras & Features: 5/10
Included with the main feature is a feature named “Mars: Past, Present & Future” which gives a good introduction to why the documentary was made, and what was involved in the project. There are interviews with the filmmakers and some of the scientists involved, and there is discussion on the project, and various aspects of the mission. There is also a neat feature included titles “Mars and Beyond,” which was initially produced in 1957. The feature is hosted by Walt Disney himself, and details the history and legend of Mars in the late 1950’s. The feature is a bit dry, but overall it is a neat piece, and it just emphasizes the leaps that we have made in space exploration since the middle of last century. Another plus is the fact that Disney offers both the full view and widescreen versions of the documentary.

The Movie: 8/10
Without giving too much away, this documentary is about Mars. More importantly, this documentary is about NASA’s successful attempt to land two functional rovers on the surface of the planet, in order to get a better idea of whether there has been water on the planet. There, I hope I haven’t spoiled the ending. Discovering water on the planet is one step towards the possible discovery of life on other planets.

Disney’s 40 minute documentary is an informative and short look into the projects from start to finish. The two rovers, aptly named Opportunity and Spirit were launched in 2003, and actually landed on the red planet in 2004. The documentary does a nice job on detailing the challenges that were involved with landing a remote control rover on the surface of a planet that is millions of miles away. That task, in and of itself, is quite astonishing when you think about it. One of my favorite lines in the documentary is when one of the scientists describes the task as shooting a basketball from California to New York, and having it go thru the net. Not an easy feat, especially for someone with my (in)ability to play basketball.

The story unfolds in a predictable manner, but it is punctuated by computer generated graphics that are well done. It is a presentation that never really goes beyond the basics of the mission, but that is to be expected with a running time of 40 minutes. I had to remind myself that this was created to show at Imax theaters, hence the generic approach to the piece. While this ends up with the documentary being a little short and a little superficial, it actually works for all ages. I can see watching this with kids who may be interested in space, without losing them to talk about the intricacies and details of the rovers and the missions. I found that while it was 40 minutes, it was a full 40 minutes, and I didn’t seem to mind the fact that it was tad short.

Overall I thought that it was well done, and while it may have been made for a gigantic screen, the transition to my TV seemed to work just fine. I enjoyed the lesson in space travel, and while it did seem like it was made to justify the huge expense and mission itself, I thought it wasn’t too overindulgent. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that while it didn’t blow me away, I thought the documentary was really pretty good.

Video & Audio: 8/10
This DVD had good visuals for being a conventional (read non hi-def) DVD. There were a few times that the computer generated scenes really looked like computer generated scenes, but overall it was nicely done. I understand that in order to demonstrate much of the action taking place, the documentary required the use of CG scenes (as there is no way to have cameras in space follow the rockets), but at times it was a bit strange. There would be shots mixed in with the images that the rovers sent back to NASA, and it was sometimes hard to discern what they were trying to pass off as real, and what was generated. I initially was bothered by the inter-mixing, but it actually seems to work in the end. The sound on the DVD was also quite good. Overall it was really well done, but as this was initially an Imax video, I guess it was to be expected.

We also took a look at the simultaneous Blu-Ray release of the movie and were stunned at the results, presented in pristine 1080P this movie really captures the grandeur of the piece in a similar way to Planet Earth its a showpiece disc. Unfortunately the BD version contains the exact same extras as the standard release but as a bonus both extras are presented in full HD. The Dolby 5.1 audio track is identical to the DVD release but the 48KHZ/24 Bit uncompressed track is where all the action is, bass is way deeper in some of the more intense moments and speech is crystal clear throughout. Obviously the Blu-Ray version of this title is the better technically but due to the limited nature and rewatchabillity factor of the title I do not think I would spring the extra $10 to see it in HD. Still that’s what rentals are for right?

Value: 5/10
While I would highly recommend this DVD, as it is interesting and well done, it is only 40 minutes and it doesn’t hold much replay value. I would recommend renting this one, but I am not sure that I can foresee anyone wanting to watch it over and over again.

Overall Score 7/10