Mars appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the mini-series looked good.
Expect only minimal concerns with sharpness. A few interiors showed a smidgen of softness, but the majority of the programs appeared well-defined and accurate. I saw no shimmering or jaggies and both edge haloes and outside of some archival footage, print flaws remained absent.
Given the Martian setting, a rusty red-orange tone dominated the shows, though we got some teal thrown in as well. The programs replicated the colors with the desired impact. Blacks were deep and full, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. All in all, the shows offered nice visuals.
With the sci-fi motif, I expected an active DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, but the mix only occasionally boasted excitement. Space launches gave us some involving material, and a few other components such as storms used the channels in a compelling manner.
However, the series’ origins as a TV enterprise meant it lacked a “movie-quality” surround mix, so most of the audio concentrated on the front. Music showed good stereo spread, and elements moved across the speakers well enough, but the back channels played a smaller than anticipated role. While the surrounds added occasional bits of information, they didn’t do as much as I’d expect.
Audio quality worked well. Effects seemed accurate and dynamic, with strong bass response as appropriate. Music appeared full and rich, while speech was distinctive and natural. Though I’d prefer a more involving soundscape, the audio did a reasonably effective job.
All the set’s extras show up on Disc Three, and we start with Making Mars, a 47-minute, 17-second documentary. It involves executive producers Jon Kamen, Matt Renner, Justin Wilkes and Ron Howard, director Everardo Gout, production designer Sophie Becher, writer Paul Solet, JPL director Charles Elachi, Mars Society president Robert Zubrin, Planetary Society Director of Space Policy Casey Dreier, Smithsonian Institution’s Roger Launius, Hayden Planetarium director Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Planetary Resources co-founder/co-chairman Peter Diamandis, astrophysicist Jedidah Isler, How We’ll Live on Mars author Stephen Petranek, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, Martian author Andy Weir. University of Pennsylvania professor David Dinges, NASA astronauts Drew Morgan, Victor Glover and Jessica Meir, Packing for Mars author Mary Roach, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld, NASA senior scientist Chris McKay, Voyager Interstellar Miessage creative director Ann Druyan, and actors Ben Cotton, Alberto Ammann, Sammi Rotibi, Jihae, and Clementine Poidatz.
“Making” looks at research and the science/history behind the plans to go to Mars as well as aspects of the TV series’ production such as sets and locations and music. Despite the title, “Making” tells us very little about the series itself, as it focuses almost entirely on scientific/engineering elements. Those are fine, but we learn some of this already in the series itself, so “Making” feels semi-redundant – and mistitled.
Called “a prequel”, Before Mars runs 33 minutes and gives some backstory for the mini-series’ main characters. It focuses on the Seung sisters as teens and shows their burgeoning interest in space exploration. “Before” works fine on its own, but I don’t know how necessary I consider it to be.
For more about the “prequel”, we go to Before Mars Behind the Scenes. It lasts a whopping two minutes, 28 seconds and features National Geographic’s Andy Baker. He gives us some basics about the “prequel”, but with so little time available, he doesn’t tell us much.
Getting to Mars breaks into six segments and fills 13 minutes, 51 seconds with comments from Musk, Green, Grunsfeld, Elachi, Tyson, Weir, Diamandis, Bolden, Zubrin, Roach, Druyan, Isler, Heldmann, Petranek, Launius, Dreier, Lovell and JPL’s Jennifer Trosper. They cover some basics about the challenges related to attempts to travel to Mars. These tend to be semi-promotional bits and they seem redundant after “Making” but they’re decent on their own.
Six more clips show up under Living on Mars. These take up a total of 10 minutes, 26 seconds and involve Green, Weir, Petranek, Heldmann, Bolden, Elachi, Zubrin, and Diamandis. Unsurprisingly, these discuss challenges related to adapting to the Martian climate. “Living” acts as an extension of “Getting”, with the same pros and cons.
Another four segments appear via More Mars. Over 10 minutes, 29 seconds, we hear from Bolden, Zubrin, Heldmann, Weir, Isler, Elachi, Green, Diamandis, Petranek, Dreier, Tyson, Launius, Space Policy Institute founder John Logsdon, and White House Office of Science and Technology Deputy Director Thomas Kalil. As expected, these echo the last two collections and give us general facts with an aim to promote the mini-series.
An additional three clips come to us under Behind the Scenes. These take up 14 minutes, 38 seconds and feature Howard, Wilkes, Solet, Musk,. Jihae, Renner, Isler, Becher, Poidatz, Rotibi and Gout. These contribute basics about the production. They include decent info, but they continue to seem fairly superficial and promotional.
Finally, we get of 25 minutes, six seconds Cast and Crew Interviews. These give us notes from Ron Howard, Everardo Gout, Paul Solet, Ben Cotton, Jihae, Clementine Poidatz, Alberto Ammann, Sammi Rotibi and actors Anamaria Marinca, Olivier Martinez, John Light and Cosima Shaw.
The participants cover various aspects of the production, all in the same fluffy way that has accompanied the prior collections of featurettes. This means we get occasional bouts of useful information but much of the material just engages in fluff.
A mix of fact and fiction, Mars provides a lackluster miniseries. The futuristic drama never ignites, and the views of modern science lack enough depth to tell us much. The Blu-rays offer mostly good picture and audio as well as a reasonably informative – if often promotional -collection of supplements. Mars ends up as a forgettable sci-fi program.