A boring, airless Netflix documentary by an Oscar-winning duo whose good movies concerning the ups and downs of human exploration (“Meru,” “Free Solo,” and “The Rescue”) shook the center in your throat the depth of driving a rickety wood curler coaster, Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s “Return to House” renders Elon Musk’s mission to Mars with all of the rigor and pleasure of a two-hour infomercial for SpaceX . Whereas I can’t say how this challenge took place or what it hoped to serve, “Return to Earth” reeks of sponsored content material so strongly that it doesn’t matter who really footed the invoice.
Which isn’t to say that Chin and Vasarhelyi wouldn’t be pressured into Musk on their very own, or the astronauts who risked their lives to steer SpaceX’s first orbit launch. The filmmakers’ earlier work has been galvanized by a high-intensity strategy to Herzogian characters – by a wealthy affinity for cave divers, free climbers and anybody who refuses to accept the easy comforts of dry land – and a neurodivergent Kajillionaire who desires of dying on Mars looks like such a pure matter for Chin and Vasarhelyi that Herzog, who is not any stranger to the concept of disguising sponsored content material right into a extra natural type of documentary), in all probability blames himself for not having reaches Musk first. Or not.
Both method, “Return to House” doesn’t actually hit it both. Quite the opposite, this movie considers the richest man in historical past so distant that the gap can solely be measured in mild years. Chin and Vasarhelyi don’t get round the truth that Musk is mainly only a daring go well with with bottomless pockets (his abject uselessness in SpaceX’s management room is maybe essentially the most humanizing factor about him), however their digital camera tends to flatter him with the bow of a fan contest winner, or the lethal dread of watching Prometheus steal fireplace from the gods.
Not that a bit respect isn’t obligatory right here. Very similar to Musk’s firm, “Return to House” is pushed by the concept we should return the celebrities to Earth earlier than we convey individuals to the celebrities – that the approaching chance of house journey should be reintroduced into the unconscious collective earlier than NASA might rekindle the identical enthusiasm that fueled him on the moon in 1969. Musk has at all times had a knack for igniting the creativeness of the world, and this documentary is an extension of that.
“Return to House” strives to distill the breadth of what SpaceX has achieved to date and share the marvel of what it hopes to perform sooner or later, however the movie’s scattered focus – in distinction putting with the breathless immediacy of “The Rescue” – and the publicity tone dampens the sheer thrill of seeing society land on an orbital-class rocket for the primary time. Though he was cautious to determine the risks of launching into orbit (the Challenger and Columbia explosions are revisited in morbid element) and to introduce us to the households of the 2 males who piloted the Dragon to the Station worldwide house and again in 2020, the large film of the movie finale is constructed with all the joy of a press launch.
Chin and Vasarhelyi at all times discover methods to excel in such moments of life-or-death emergency, their cameras specializing in the unmistakably nervous faces of SpaceX engineers at mission management in a method that reminds you ways a lot the stake is at each launch. . However their documentary flatlines each time he stops to clarify the top of NASA’s house shuttle program, or to place Tesla’s CEO because the hero who redeemed it by the ability of a partnership historic public-private (spots the parade of sycophantic speaking heads, all of that are on Musk’s payroll).
And that’s precisely what “Return to House” does for many of its runtime, as archival footage of NASA’s lowest moments is intercut with dotcom-era clips of Musk throwing rockets to Burning Man (all layered below newly recorded audio of Musk saying issues like “Earth is the cradle of mankind, however you may’t keep within the cradle eternally”). His all-or-nothing guess on the success of SpaceX is instructed with legendary admiration, whereas Neil Armstrong – briefly seen talking out in opposition to public-private sponsorship throughout a congressional listening to – is dismissed as a dinosaur whose imprint on the previous didn’t furnish him with any particular authority on the long run.
Possibly not. Possibly Elon Musk, who as soon as thought it might be humorous to promote flamethrowers on Twitter for $500, was actually the one particular person with the wealth and imaginative and prescient to reinvigorate America’s house program and push humanity ahead. even nearer to changing into a multi-planet species. Even (or particularly) in its blandest propaganda, “Return to House” makes it clear that somebody has to do the work; Expertise doesn’t invent itself, and every paradigm-shifting eureka second requires an unfathomable diploma of persistence to change into one thing extra.
However this aimless documentary – made all of the extra infuriating by the basic attraction of its subject material – doesn’t do sufficient of its personal work in return. He doesn’t query the price of Musk’s efforts, he doesn’t ponder the implications of his obsession (past some dry firms speaking about how SpaceX’s failures are vital to its success), and he doesn’t wonders or anybody else if the richest individuals are essentially the appropriate ones to steer us to a different world. As an alternative, he soars with somebody in SpaceX’s management room utilizing the phrase “jabroni” at a vital second within the Dragon touchdown, as if reclaiming the cosmos for the widespread man. . As if the remainder of the film incorporates compelling proof that Elon Musk is dashing to Mars for anybody however himself.
“Return to House” is now streaming on Netflix.