Good Night Oppy by Ryan White [7/10]

Based on an extraordinary segment of NASA’s history that somehow passed by me this century, one that begs for a deft, challenging treatment, “Good Night Oppy” covers all the bases but is let down by its underpinnings (for a documentary, call it the script, if you like) and its style (call it the direction). In 2003, NASA launched two separate rockets holding “rover” explorers, autonomous geological exploration vehicles, and landed them both on Mars. Ninety days was their expected lifespan, but one of them, Opportunity (the Oppy of the title) kept going for nearly fifteen years. It’s a gasp-worthy tale, with the added overtone that the entire NASA crew back on Earth grows to personify the two robots, and this filmic treatment is engaging and fascinating. But it could have been much better. American saccharine sentimentality rears its ugly head, as personified by that horrid string soundtrack music that is barely tolerable; half of the talking heads are tremendous, some are not; and the overt backdrop of lauding NASA, without remission, clouds what could have been a fine ending. Call Good Night Oppy a misspent opportunity.

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