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Captain William Stanaforth is on a one-way solo mission to take the first steps in colonising Mars. Like all pioneers throughout history, Stanaforth will face insurmountable odds and life and death decisions as he rockets bravely through space.
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Approaching the Unknown movie full length review - Approaching the Unknown
It's unavoidable to compare Approaching the Unknown with The Martian, even though both films are completely different regarding theme, structure and, of course, cost.
The Martian was a "space adventure" of a big scientific and emotional realism, while Approaching the Unknown is an indie character study focused on the reflections of an astronaut who voluntarily abandoned planet Earth in order to approach the unknown (like the title points it out). The only thing both movies have in common is the planet Mars. Approaching the Unknown is almost entirely developed on board of the spaceship Zephyr during its nine-month travel to Mars. We occasionally find brief flashbacks to the main character's past; and we also have sporadic conversations he has with his friend "Skinny", who supervises the mission from Earth; and Captain Emily Maddox, who will arrive at Mars some months after the main character. Leaving that aside, we spend the whole movie in company with the lonely astronaut, listening to his doubts and hopes for the mission, while trying to solve uncountable problems arising from the slow journey to the red planet. And if that sounds boring, it's because it unfortunately is so, despite the solid performance from Mark Strong in the leading role. The main problem of Approaching the Unknown is the fact that the screenplay loses credibility very rapidly, forcing incongruous situations to generate the high level of drama impulsing the psychological evolution (or de-evolution) from the main character. If I hadn't read the novels The Martian and Seveneves, I might have felt this film less disconnected from reality... but even the most casual "space geek" with the slightest knowledge regarding the authentic space travel will find Approaching the Unknown full of ridiculous ideas sabotaging its premise. I will just mention the most superficial problems: Was it really a good idea to send only one man to colonize Mars? Without the support of a crew? Without any back-up in the case of an emergency? To be fair, NASA is never mentioned; Zephyr may be an independent mission (maybe financed by Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos), something which might explain the absence of common sense, redundant systems and obsessive concern for the astronaut's security; but even like that, the travel conditions seem absolutely improbable. For example, I can mention the box of tools employed by the main character to repair the failures of the spaceship... it seems the box of tools of an amateur plumber, instead of the sophisticated instruments employed by the authentic astronauts in space. I might look like a "fanboy" complaining because the film wasn't scientifically correct until the slightest detail, but that's not the point. I'm not talking about lack of realism, but lack of logic... of the most basic narrative congruence to support the main character's experiences. So, the basic concept of Approaching the Unknown is good, but it's sabotaged by a weak execution. And even though I liked Strong's performance, I didn't like his character's irrational attitudes. In conclusion, I can't recommend Approaching the Unknown, specially when there are "space movies" of a hugely superior artistic integrity, such as Moon, Gravity or... yes, The Martian.