Nobody gets to the crimson planet in Passage to Mars, or even tries to. Rather, the topics of Jean-Christophe Jeauffre’s grandiose documentary are on a grueling trek via the Arctic, driving an experimental rover to Devon Island, a research website for potential Mars missions of the longer term. But that doesn’t maintain team chief Pascal Lee from feeling like he is an integral part of humanity’s big interplanetary leap, and this enticing film plays along, hiring Zachary Quinto to learn Lee’s journals with much more drama than he’d convey to a captain’s log if Spock subbed for Kirk within the subsequent Star Trek journey. Quinto and an Elon Musk-fueled resurgence of interest in Mars could attract some consideration here, however this can be a minor (if death-defying) chapter in the ongoing story that has meager box-workplace prospects.
Lee leads a six-man group (two of whom are filmmakers) which hopes to drive the Okarian — a modified Humvee with tank-like treads — throughout the Northwest Passage to Devon Island before the winter sea ice melts. At Devon, the Okarian might be put by its paces in a vast, uninhabited desert terrain the Mars Institute makes use of to prep for lengthy-term planetary exploration. But the challenges of this particular voyage — snowstorms, unseen obstacles, cracks within the ice — resemble those confronted by Earthbound explorers like Ernest Shackleton greater than what tomorrow’s astronauts will encounter.
Jeauffre cuts lots of NASA-sourced Mars imagery into this icy story, drawing parallels between Arctic dangers and the sandstorms and isolation provided on that planet. Throughout, Quinto reads from Lee’s journals, which alternate between musing on the likelihood that Mars missions will discover life (or proof of earlier life) and chronicling extra pressing considerations: the truck tread that blows apart en route, as an illustration; the failing alternator; and the dangerous choice to separate the staff up in the hunt for crucial supplies.
Any of the above might conceivably get the explorers killed, but hazard doesn’t fairly translate into sustained drama right here, in part as a result of the reliance on voiceover distances us from the action. The doc’s eagerness to unfold the glory around, treating a years-in-advance little bit of analysis as if it were nearly the principle occasion, will endear it to some Earthlings who yearn for the stars. But it additionally faces the chance of burning by means of moviegoers’ enthusiasm before there’s an precise mission to support.
Distributor: Sundance Selects Production company: Jules Verne Adventures Director-editor: Jean-Christophe Jeauffre Screenwriters: Jean-Christophe Jeauffre, Pascal Lee Producers: Jean-Christophe Jeauffre, Frederic Dieudonne Director of pictures: Mark Carroll Composer: Steffen Schmidt
Not rated, 95 minutes