During this year’s Austin Film Festival, I was only able to watch a couple of documentary films, as opposed to narrative feature movies. Still, both of the entries I watched succeeded in appealing to very different facets of my mind and emotions. The first of which, actually captured my heart in ways I had not originally fathomed. And that particular movie is the documentary about the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit, which exceeded the expectations of the scientists who first conceived them.
As part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the robotic rovers Opportunity and Spirit were launched into space in 2003 to continue humanity’s study of the planet Mars. Given that the rovers would make the journey, they were expected to only last for 90 days on Mars, but one particular rover Oppy would endure for fifteen years. The documentary features archival footage, impressive re-enactments of their journeys and interviews with the key crew members involved, and how this mission affected their lives.
Written and directed by Ryan White, who co-wrote the film with Helen Kearns, Goodnight Oppy is a mostly emotionally powerful and definitely intriguing piece of documentary filmmaking. Space travel is never an easy feat, and the journey to make this possible, along with all of the obstacles that this type of experimental accomplishment is beautifully captured and re-created for audiences to behold and marvel.
While this movie occasionally comes across as sacharine, it is nevertheless a lovely testament to the intelligence and will-power of humanity to accomplish some amazing feats of science. It also captures the magic and joy of the serendipity that sometimes occurs when things exceed humanity’s expectations.
Good Night Oppy is now available for streaming via Amazon Prime.