If this is the real Mars, we'll stick with the more vivid depiction of the planet from Total Recall, thank you very much. When NASA launched two rovers to the orb next door, the director of Pumping Iron decided to film scientists' gutsy quest to find signs of water, or even life, on the Red Planet. Problem is, they couldn't exactly mount IMAX cameras on the Spirit or Opportunity rovers, and the robots only send home low-res pics.
So, after we see five-story-high lab sessions with scientists, this doc's key drama--the exploration of an alien landscape--gets re-created with computer animation. The movie's setup promises future astronauts in the audience the real thing, but we end up getting tons of simulation (all of it very technical, though, mirroring the rovers' actual journeys). By the time we see actual still shots of Mars, the panoramas shot by the rovers pale compared to the computer-conjured images, looking sort of like cell-phone pictures of sand traps. The result is that the "real" surface of Mars doesn't seem as interesting, especially in the IMAX format, and the Red Planet feels even further away than before.