Mars uses a challenging and somewhat novel format, splitting its time, and time periods. About two-thirds of it is devoted to a dramatic story about an international crew of explorers going to Mars in the year 2033, getting into trouble, and having to pull together to get out of it. The rest of the film is a documentary about the people in 2016 who are striving now to make it happen.
The story line has obvious similarities to that of the movie The Martian, but with this important difference: The Matt Damon character in The Martian isn’t interested in Mars. He doesn’t care about the search for life on Mars, or about Mars as humanity’s new frontier. He just wants to get home. In contrast, Howard’s ensemble crew is fascinated by Mars. For them, the Red Planet is not just a place of peril; it is also a place of wonder. So while Mars may not have the star power of Matt Damon, it has something that The Martian lacks: the star power of Mars.
As for the documentary side of the epic, the focus is heavily on Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX who are going all out to reach for the Red Planet. This may irritate a lot of those working in the Mars-mission community — for example, those in and around program led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They have sent 17 successful and five unsuccessful probes to Mars, a record that compares favorably to that of the SpaceX effort, which has sent none of either.
Zubrin believes Elon Musk is a person who craves what the ancient Greeks called “kleos,” eternal glory for doing great deeds, and is willing to put everything on the line to get it. Regardless of his penchant for hype, his accomplishments are very real. By taking an extremely daring approach, he has demonstrated the ability to develop new space-flight systems at one tenth the cost and one third the time that was previously accepted as normal in the aerospace industry. Not only that, he has developed things that the mainline industry, working for half a century before him, never even attempted to create, such as reusable rocket-booster stages that land on their takeoff pads using supersonic retropropulsion.
Musk has Sputniked NASA and set a new paradigm for future space flight. Will he himself succeed in pulling it off? The odds are against him. He’s a bold player in a very risky business. But even if he should fail, as well he might, he has shown the world the way to move forward.
It is up to people like Ron Howard to show where the path leads. The world needs heroes, but it needs poets even more — because it is poets who summon heroes, and the heroic qualities that lie within nations, to their calling.
SOURCES- National Geographic, National Review, youtube