Mars: The Red Planet

Mars: The Red Planet (1999)
DVD International
Extras: Multi-Angle Video, 3D Video and Still Images, Isolated Score

A little while ago I received the announcement for a rather unusual DVD release. Called "The Red Planet Mars", the disc promised to contain a plethora of material on the planet Mars, including some highly interactive features, as well as extensive original footage from the planet’s surface. Recently now, DVD International has released this title and I was eager to give it a look. Although I have to admit that I am not entirely astrophile, I truly enjoy well-made programming that takes you into space. The first thing you’ll notice when inserting this disc is that it offers you an interactive mode as well as an entertainment mode. The interactive mode is perfect if you know what you’re looking for and you actually want to dig directly into some of the materials on the disc, whereas the entertainment mode allows you to sit back, and simply enjoy the ride.

To make a long story short, "The Red Planet Mars" contains EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know about Mars. Every bit of information and imagery has been captured on this incredible disc. Everything that is known about Mars is here as well, making this without a doubt the most complete treatise of the Red Planet. I decided to dive into the action, using the disc’s entertainment mode and I was immediately glues to the screen. The opening minutes of this presentation are some of the most visually powerful images on the disc. From a rocket-mounted camera we get to witness the crafts ascend into the sky, and within little more than two minutes we see the Earth shriveling to a blue orb. The speed of this spacecraft is mesmerizing and seeing the Earth grow smaller and smaller with every second is an experience you have to see.

From there, the disc takes us through some photographs and computer generated imagery that shows some details of the Mars, which is then followed by a plethora of photographs and maps of the Mars’ surface. All of it incredibly well presented and great looking. The quality of the images and the ability to go back and forth, zoom in and out of them is quite stunning to be honest. After some minutes however, the subject matter became a little dry for my taste and I quickly skipped over many of the maps and eventually got to the disc’s art gallery. The art gallery contains beautiful paintings and sketches from artists, depicting imaginary scenes of Mars landings and civilizations. It is a great addition to the disc and rounds up the package very nicely.

Following this experience I decided to take a look at the interactive version of the disc and it was there that the more intricate information came to show. The wealth of information is simply overwhelming, including listings of every Mars mission ever attempted or flown. Information like Launch Sites, Launch Vehicles and Dates, Mission Objectives and Results, every bit of detail is nicely catalogued and presented on this disc. The disc even contains 3D images of the Mars surface and when viewed with the 3D glasses that come with the package, you get indeed a good depth of field out of those pictures.

One thing above all is also notable with this release. On top of the program you will hear a newly recorded version Gustav Holst’s "The Planets" – a masterpiece in its own right – as part of the art gallery. It is a great sounding interpretation performed by Ryan Shore that adds to the disc’s overall appeal. In total, the disc offers four audio tracks during the Planetary View section of the disc, as well a six different camera angles. Considering how much information and images DVD International managed to stuff onto this single-layer disc, it is surprising the video and audio quality did not suffer. Images are crisp and clear, footage is also without problems or notable compression artifacting and the audio track is always clear.

To round up this release, DVD International has also hidden 200 Easter Eggs on this release and supplies various screensavers in the disc’s DVD-ROM section.

"The Red Planet Mars" is a remarkable release. It is clearly not for everyone’s taste, but if you are a hobby astronomer or just interested in consolidated and accumulated information about the Red Planet, this DVD is what you need, there can be no doubt.