Though Good Night Oppy is focused on inanimate objects, it shows grief, compassion, and connection in a unique way.
More than just a documentary about the miracle rover that explored Mars, Good Night Oppy focuses on the scientists’ emotional investment in the little rover. By following Opportunity and its twin Spirit, we get to know the engineers and scientists working on the mission. Originally the mission was going to last 90 days, assuming everything went right. Instead, Spirit remained in action for six years; Oppy for 14.
The film almost seems split into two parts. Angela Bassett assumes the role of narrator for Oppy and Spirit as we watch them explore Mars and collect data, but the film is comprised mostly of interviews and candid shots of the scientists working on the mission. We get to know them personally, from their history with NASA to their families, all of which change drastically over the 14 years Oppy survives.
While the rovers are constructed of metal, both the scientists and the audience form an emotional attachment to them as if they were pets, or even toddlers. The rovers have the ability to learn through a system called “autonomy,” which acts as a form of artificial intelligence.
The only flaw in this film is the lack of discussion around the results found by Spirit and Oppy. As usual for NASA, they were looking for sources or signs of water that could imply there was once life on Mars. Seeing the results of Oppy’s long time on Mars would have made it even more interesting.
This film is unique in showing a lot of gorgeous panoramic shots of Mars, whereas it is more common to see images of the moon. The cinematography involved is beautiful and impressive considering how the images were obtained.
Good Night Oppy feels less like a documentary and more like a narrative film with the rovers as the main characters. (It’s not surprising that it has drawn comparisons to Pixar’s WALL-E.) It showcases every feeling possible, from moments like Oppy taking a selfie or Spirit’s main operator crying when the rover is stuck in a crater. Through the film is focused on inanimate objects, it shows grief, compassion and connection in a unique way.
Should be Considered: Best Documentary Film
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Lives in NC, little sister to Nicole and Daisy’s biggest fan.
Favorite Actress: Florence Pugh
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