Mars is difficult. Hard to get to, hard to make habitable for people, hard to tell a story on the…
Mars is difficult. Hard to get to, hard to make habitable for people, hard to tell a story on the screen and leave the viewer with a lasting impression.
With a few apparent exceptions – watch you, Martian – all Mars movies have bombed. From Mission to Mars with Tim Robbins 2000 to Last Days on Mars with Liev Schreiber in 2012, supernatural thrillers have failed to find elements of decent drama on the Red Planet. And the TV version has not gone much better.
Witness Hulus’s new original series First: obviously about the first Mars mission does not even bother us about the destination and focuses a whole season on sad Sean Penn and his terrestrial battle.
National Geographic’s Mars which returns for a second season of six episodes starting Monday, seems to have all that goes for it in its bid to be the Mars drama you should actually watch.
Like Martian it focuses on the problems of Red Planet life and the need for people to “science the shit” of them (although this PG production would never use the language of the salt Martians ] Mark Watney, which is a pity).
National Geographic dubs this “hybrid drama”. I call it the death of the drama.
Unlike The first March does not put its baby plan in the corner. The root and dune landscape was primarily and in the middle of Mars Season 1 section 1 (as far as I can find the first serious screen of people who reach Mars for the first time; even Martian departed from showing the actual historical arrival).
So why all 12 episodes so far (including season 2, as I’ve seen) seems to be a struggle to get through? Why does drama feel so deserted? Why do I feel, a spacecatcher and a lot of target groups, that I have to eat Mark Watney Mars potato?
Ron Howard produces. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk and a host of other luminaires appear all around to talk about what a real mission to Mars might be. Nick Cave wrote a theme so gloomy and smelly, you expect half a police procession on the slopes of Olympus Mons.
On paper, you get no less exciting than you get for Season 2. After establishing a bass, suffering deadly sandstorms and finding bacterial life, our research colonists must now share the planet with new arrivals from a SpaceX-esque private company. Hello, current analogy for the earth’s struggle between scientific truth and corporate greed!
A moody moment for Marta on Mars.
Image: National Geographic / Richard Donnelly
The first and most obvious issue is the insistence of the show on interconnection between Mars in the 2040s and interviews on Earth today every 5 to 10 minutes. National Geographic dubs this “hybrid drama”. I call it the death of the drama.
Even the most demolishing epics on television could survive such a way back and forth.
Imagine Thrones Game if the action stopped every few scenes while talking heads discuss, saying dragons actually being a metaphor for nuclear weapons in modern warfare. Although it was George R.R. Martin himself continued with the subject, you would probably prefer to wait until after the episode.
By squeezing what is essentially two programs in every 45-minute episode, Mars succeeds in massively changing both.
On the documentary page, NatGeo has collected a dream song by author, from Andy Weir ( The Martian ) to Jared Diamond ( Gun, Germs, and Steel ) to Kim Stanley Robinson ( ] Marstrilogin ), but we rarely hear more than one sentence from them. We also do not learn the scientist in Greenland or the Greenpeace activist who is too short-profiled.
Instead, we get the most kriskliché: dramatic montage of the kind you’ve seen a thousand times. News footage of people fighting; street floods; Headlines say STUFF IS BAD; CNN Anchor says STUFF IS BAD; cut to expert says “could it be better on mars or would we make the same mistake?”
By squeezing what are essentially two programs in every 45-minute episode, Mars Mars succeeds with massively short changes of both.
(Also a personal reason for NatGeo on behalf of those who adopted a show called Mars would help us fly from his shadow: Trump no longer denies the soundtracks in this show ever again.)  On the 22-minute drama side, no character in this over-sized ensemble feels at all. The script prefers moody close-ups and flat speech to character depth. It’s practically crying out for some nice en-liners to relieve ugliness; why should we go to mars and leave our humourous feeling behind?
Although the background of a Chinese space station is said to be broadcast 24-7 as a kind of reality show, it’s no sense that the characters are in a social media near future. Where are all smartphones and tablets? If they can communicate with the ground, they can not even get Facebook? Should not all colonists be on a local version of Slack, at least?
With no scenes they can really lower their teeth, the actors chew the most Martian scene. If a future Mars civilization has telenovelas, they can look like this. Only with fewer documentary breaks.
Take the most promising new character, commander Kurt Hurrelle, the man in charge of Lukrum’s operations on the planet. He is played by Jeff Hephner ( Chicago Fire ) with pure brohyrd assholery. Hurrelle would be an interesting villain – if you ever learned a single complex detail about him who, say, his motivation to come to Mars, or what happened in his past to make him so jerk to scientists.
Commander Hana Seung has a free and open exchange of views with commander Kurt Hurrelle of Lukrum Corp.
Image: National Geographic / Dusan Martincek
There are stupid decisions everywhere, plus short brawls and romances between researchers and companies. But these are not woven woven in the fabric of the show, which hits the reset button in the relations between the two stages each episode and hits a giant rescue button at the end of the season.
With that said, we also end up with a heartfelt development for the colonists as cracks open the first real characters of the life of this show. No spoilers, but considering that the show is not afraid of leaping forward, I’m optimistic that Season 3 can find its way.
That is, if Mars can separate the two sides of its hybrid. I experimented by just watching the dramatic scenes in a section, then flipping and watching the documentary pieces. It felt like an improvement. Showrunner Dee Johnson told me that she would be open to the idea of the National Geographic “remixing” show in this way.
I hope so. For those dear two-dimensional colonial characters who moved home at the end of season 1, I refuse to make sure we have come so far and struggled so much and ate so many potatoes to fail.
I really hope we’re on Mars to stay.
& # 39; Mars & # 39; Season 2 premiere on Monday at 9 ET / 8 p.m. CT at the National Geographic Channel.