Mars: The Red Planet
Those of you who have little interest in the exploration of our solar system will probably consider Mars: The Red Planet to be a slow-going affair. But those of you who still harbor childhood dreams of spaceships and distant planets will probably find the disc to be as fascinating as a stack of Playboy magazines in your dad's closet. As an interactive DVD, Mars: The Red Planet offers a variety of unbroken shots of the Mars surface from space and on the ground set to a synthesized score of Holst's The Planets. At first these segments seem like a glorified screen-saver, but before long they become eerily transfixing, much like the low-key entertainment one can derive from skimming through an atlas, or even just looking at thunderclouds. Far more enthralling is footage of a NASA launch, where the camera is strapped to the fuselage of a Boeing rocket. Four minutes long, this unbroken thrill-ride rapidly moves from the ground (roads and structures clearly discernible) to beyond the stratosphere, with the curvature of the Earth in view after about two minutes it's damn near worth the price of admission by itself. Textual supplements on Mars missions past, present, and future are on board, along with numerous documentary sequences, still frames, and even some 3-D images (those two-color glasses are included in the keep-case, but while some members of our staff said they could see the 3-D effect, others were quickly reaching for a bottle of Excedrin). If you don't feel like skimming through menus, there's also an "entertainment mode," which will play the supplements sequentially. Or grab the remote with both hands and look for the 200 "Easter eggs" on the disc, which can then be submitted to a website for prizes. Mars: The Red Planet is definitely one of those "gotta-have-it" DVDs, but only for some of you and you probably know who you are. Some DVD Journal staffers are still fighting over who gets to take this disc home.