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Look out for more coverage of
Roving Mars in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Roving Mars

Martian Rover Spirit • Martian Rover Opportunity
DIRECTOR: George Butler

Martian sunset! THE CONCEPT:
New IMAX feature that chronicles the remarkable Mars mission which sent two intrepid explorers, rovers Spirit and Opportunity, to the Red Planet

U.S. RELEASE: January 27 2006, Nationwide • Rated: G


“Since I was a kid I’ve loved science fiction movies. I love space, I built little space stations in my room and models, and I directed an episode of From the Earth to the Moon. I got a phone call from George Butler about four years ago, and he said, ‘What if you knew that the rovers that are going to Mars will have IMAX cameras on them?’ And I said, ‘I’m in. That sounds fantastic.’ And the rest is history.”

“An IMAX image is a visually splendid photographic image. It’s a startling way to present film. Frank Marshall and I really tried to knock the socks off the audience. The good news about this project is that I lucked out with Disney and everyone associated with the project, including NASA and JPL. We simply picked by good fortune the most successful NASA mission since the Apollo landings on the moon. A thousand things could have gone wrong but we got a brilliantly successful mission.”

MARSHALL on the fact that he was producing a movie about a mission that could have failed:
“That’s where I had to do a lot of smooth talking. If they made it and they were sending back pictures it would be too late, there’s no movie. Let’s say they hadn’t made it, we probably would have spent close to a quarter of our budget. So there were some risks, but it’s a very low budget movie, and they understood that if we didn’t start we couldn’t catch up and it could be this history-making event, which it turned out to be.”

STEVE SQUYRES (Scientist and author of Roving Mars):
“There are some shots that’ll just blow you away. Some of these shots actually showing the rover in the terrain on Mars, they’re just breathtaking.”

“My idea was to document how the rovers were conceived and made, and then show how they got to Mars, and show what they did thereafter on Mars itself. That story only changed by virtue of its own success. In other words, we didn’t know how things would go – maybe one rover would work and one rover wouldn’t work. And finally and most important, the scientists publicly said they hoped the rovers would last at least ninety days, and they’re still going strong.”

MARSHALL on the day the rovers landed successfully on Mars:
“I was there at JPL, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget. The suspense in the room, the excitement, the nervousness, and then the joy and happiness, and the relief quite frankly, was amazing. And then to have it happen again three weeks later, they were pretty giddy when the second one landed safely. And then the photos just came flooding in, they had no idea [how incredible it would be].”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Images above © White Mountain Films with Walt Disney Pictures
Feature © 2006 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #667, March 2006 cover

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