Sure, it's unabashedly promotional, but damn if this short "public service announcement" from Lockheed Martin and NASA doesn't get the geeky sci-fi juices flowing. Based on project supervisor Steve Squyres's account of the space agency's successful 2003 landing of two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, the doc begins with cool testing sessions of solar-panel deployment, then launches into a midsection where you pray for the safe landing of the adorable billion-dollar toys (fine, I've outed my rover love) and ends with an all-too-brief assessment of Martian geology. Can we go can we go can we go?
Boasting a creative team more impressive than many full-length features', "Roving Mars" is briskly paced by director George Butler (Pumping Iron) and atmospherically scored by minimalist maestro Philip Glass. One sequence—in which Ground Control anxiously awaits delayed radio confirmation of Spirit's successful landing while we watch a CGI recreation of the actual events unfolding—is an amazing accomplishment of suspenseful intercutting. Perhaps the most breathtaking contribution are the images taken by the rovers themselves: incredibly detailed pinkish vistas that, when projected on the ginormous IMAX screen, are sure to swallow the imaginations of even the most science-averse. Sometimes it's hard to tell what is CGI and what is actual (a compliment to the film's effects designers), but there's no mistaking the passion of NASA's technicians, so often misunderstood in a time of pressing Earth-based concerns. (Opens Fri; Loews Lincoln Square IMAX.) —Joshua Rothkopf