Plot: What’s it about?
In somewhat of a parallel review, I remarked about the travels to our red planet. No, it’s not right around the corner, but it seems that if the human race wants to live another few hundred years, we might have to resort to some rather extreme measures. Mars is a part fictionalized (scripted) and part documentary approach of what it will and might take to make this happen. From the fertile minds of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer who are no strangers to space travel with 1995’s Apollo 13, this is a rather interesting look at what might happen and what’s happening now.
The first season of Mars is a seven episode look at our new space race and takes place in the present and in the future. It’s a novel approach with such personalities as Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Neil DeGrass-Tyson and one of the main brains behind it all – Elon Musk. Musk’s company, Space X, is leading the way for travel to Mars and we learn some of the ins and outs as to how and why this will and can happen. Musk is no dummy, mind you, he’s one of the top 100 richest men in the world and it’s fascinating how his idea of reusable spacecraft is such a profound idea. We get some of these candid interviews inter-spliced with the scripted portion of the series that takes place in 2033 with the fictional crew of the Daedalus. It’s this scripted portion that seemed to break up the monotony of the show, but I also felt that it slowed it down as well. I’d have rather watched a full on documentary rather than trying to keep up with characters. Again, that’s just me. No matter how slice it, we’ll see a second season so this might be rectified.
Video: How’s it look?
Mars looks the part with a good-looking 1.78:1 AVC HD image. Both the “present” and “future” parts look about the same, though the scripted portion does take place on Mars (for obvious reasons) and, as such, there is a lot more red and brown in the picture. The documentary parts of this looks crisp, sharp and clear – consistent with most anything you’d see on a HDTV broadcast. It’s a nice-looking image all around, but just short of movie-quality.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Likewise, the DTS HD Master Audio mix won’t exactly light up your system, but it’s not bad in any respect either. Vocals are pure and sharp and presented without any distortion. It’s a front-heavy mix that does its job and does it well. Surrounds are a bit more active during the scripted scenes as it gives a much needed boost to some of the ambiance. It’s a tough mix to really assign a score to, but suffice it to say that it’ll satisfy viewers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The first two discs contain the episodes while the third disc contains all of the supplements.
- Making Mars – An interview with executive producer Ron Howard as he tells how some of the shots were performed for the show and some nuances that we might have missed.
- Before Mars – A Prequel – If you can’t get enough of the scripted portion of the show, this provides some backstory.
- Before Mars Behind the Scenes – Running a whopping two and a half minutes, this can hardly be classified as a feature, it’s more like a glorified trailer.
- Getting to Mars – This shows what it will actually take to, as the title suggests, get to the red planet.
- Living on Mars – Similar to the above feature, this surmises what will actually happen once we arrive and plan to live there.
- More Mars – If you feel asleep in your science class, this is a good crash course as to how the planet was formed and a bit of history of it.
- Behind the Scenes – Cast and crew as well as Ron Howard dish on the show and we get a few “ah ha” moments to boot.
- Cast and Crew Interviews – Again, the line is drawn with the actual cast and crew versus those that starred in the scripted portion. Still, it’s a pretty interesting look at the show from both standpoints.
The Bottom Line
Mars, to me, seems to be better-served more as a documentary rather than a docu-drama. That’s just my opinion. But I found the fictionalized (read: scripted) portions a bit dull and lacking. While I was interested in hearing what Andy Weir, Neil DeGrasse-Tyson and Elon Musk (among others) had to say. The show has been granted a second season, so we’ll see how that works.