Determination and pride can get in the way of so many things, yet at the same time it can push humanity into the next chapter of evolution. These sentiments coupled with isolation makes the unknown a scary place. In the new film by Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Approaching the Unknown, NASA Captain Stanaforth engages in a once in a lifetime, not to mention a oneway, passage to Mars.
As our generation furthers it’s scientific advances in space, the idea of traveling to Mars becomes the icing on the cake of space travel. It’s a planet we’ve never been, yet have countless stories of what it could possess. Stanaforth has developed a system to take hydrogen and oxygen molecules from soil and recombine them into water, allowing the first viable scientific instrument that would permit life to live sustainably on Mars. Beyond all the science-fiction we’ve become accustomed to, Approaching the Unknown finally brings this journey to Mars down to reality.
No matter how many times space has been the front and center of film plots, it’s a subject that will always be fascinating. There is so much that civilians don’t know about the subject, anything is possible. Approaching the Unknown stays light on the technical side of the story, and the film stays intriguing and relatable for the audience. The experiment that Stanaforth creates does not need to be explained in detail. The fact that it “works” in this world is entertaining enough to suspend belief and allow for full emersion on the story. That’s not to say that there probably won’t be someone who will have an issue with the science behind the story, but it’s not the science that keeps the viewer glued to the screen.
That job lies with Mark Strong. In the last decade or so, strong has been in countless films, mostly playing villains but always being compelling. He’s a versatile actor who can sway between the genres and never miss a beat. There has only been a handful, if that, actors that can capture the audiences attention for the full length of a movie, and Strong is the top of that list. He is so effortless, so powerful that even watering a plant becomes an activity worth watching.
The subtle choices that Strong makes as an actor make the audience connect with the Captain as he is fulfilling his 270 journey to Mars, alone. It’s not that the isolation becomes empathetic, but instead the craving for solitude takes hold. Before long the audience finds themselves alongside Stanaforth on his journey, seeing themselves in each other wanting to succeed at all costs.
At all costs. In a film about space, that sentence can be a heavy idea. As it is in life, nothing can be planned out to the iota of situations to cover anything and everything that could go wrong. The beauty about this film is that there is never the spotlighted complication. Things happen, as they do, and sometimes it can be fixed and sometimes it can’t. When a story is void of any climatic scenes, the openness to expect the unknown becomes welcomed. Your mind can take a backseat, in the sense that it doesn’t have to be on high alert watching out for the tension or “horror” of what can happen, and can focus on the here and now.
For Approaching the Unknown that is the unknown. It’s a scary concept for many. I for one can’t stand the idea. How can I plan a course of action for what’s to come next if I have no idea what that may be? Do you not truly live until you live in the moment, no matter what that is, planned or unplanned? In the end does it matter? Life will find a way to happen, whether your’re prepared or not, and it’s how you choose to live your life when that happens that matter. For Stanaforth, no matter what obstacles he faced, he was on a mission to get to Mars. To live his life as no one else had ever done before, even if that meant undertaking a journey that lead to his death.
Approaching the Unknown is not your typical Mars space journey film, it’s a fresh take on that topic. Space is bigger than the science or the engineering or the technology, and there is finally a film that captures what that is. This is a film about life and how we choose to live ours.
Approaching the Unknown is out in theaters and on VOD Friday, June 3rd.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Prodigy Public Relations