Netflix UK film review: The Mars Generation
Ivan Radford | On 02, Jun 2017
Director: Michael Barnett
Cast: Bob Behnken, Alayna Bidlack, Niko Blanks
Watch The Mars Generation online in the UK: Netflix UK
“We are specks orbiting specks orbiting specks in specklessness.” That’s Bill Nye, the Science Guy, talking in Netflix’s new orifginal documentary, The Mars Generation. Snapped up by the streaming giant ahead of its Sundance premiere this year, the movie is a sweet, if fairly superficial, look at the race to put humans on the Red Planet.
For centuries, our scarlet-coloured space neighbour has captured our imaginations, but in 2017, the idea of a manned mission to Mars has never been closer. Everyone from Elon Musk to Buzz Aldrin is planning to put people on the planet, with even the UAE announcing its own plans to build a city there by 2117. And, of course, there’s Mars One, which invited people from around the world to apply for a spot in the first human settlement, with the first crew planned to depart Earth in 2031.
What drives us? The Mars Generation comes up with a charmingly simple answer: passion. Passion for discovery, learning and moving forwards in the universe. It’s only natural, then, that director Michael Barnett should choose to capture that by focusing on young recruits at NASA’s Space Camp. Familiar faces, such as Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Musk himself contribute as talking heads, but they’re sideshows, the old guard who have helped to shepherd in the new generation of astro-enthusiasts.
Barnett’s 90-minute film gives us a handy overview of the origins of NASA and the space race – just light enough to be accessible for a mainstream audience, but detailed enough to highlight just how interesting NASA’s past is. But there’s hope to go with the potted history, a heart-warming positivity surrounding the sight of young people wanting to build upon past successes and achieve something new. In a post-truth, post-expert age, it’s reassuring to see a film that isn’t afraid to celebrate knowledge and science – as fun as Riverdale is to watch, there’s something comforting about seeing children who admit they were bullied at school find a place where they don’t have to be embarrassed by their love of science, space or education. (There is, however, a sad lack of non-white children at the camp.)
The result is hardly ground-breaking, especially when compared to some of Netflix’s more innovative original documentaries, such as Casting JonBenet, but it would make for effective, entertaining and likely inspirational viewing in a school classroom. “We are specks orbiting specks orbiting specks in specklessness,” says Nye, before adding optimistically: “Yet, we can understand that.” Even more encouraging is that there are young people doing something with that understanding.
The Mars Generation is available to watch online on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.