What to Watch This Weekend: Good Night Oppy

Good Night Oppy is the true story of the Opportunity Mars rover. Through writer/director Ryan White (The Keepers, The Case Against 8) the documentary covers the creation of Opportunity and her twin sister, Spirit. The two began their journey in 2003 and the expectation was that the robots would gather geological samples on Mars’ surface for 90 sols—about 92 Earth days. Defying all expectations with resiliency, Opportunity would far surpass her shift giving NASA and other scientists a wealth of data and information about Mars.  

What works in Good Night Oppy is the energy and style. White does an excellent job stitching together a highly engaging narrative from three sources. First, the archival footage from NASA has palpable emotion. Watching the engineers succeed over each hurdle in getting the rovers off the ground and landing them safely with relief helps audiences understand the herculean challenges they faced. Next, the modern interviews with the NASA rover team provides context and perspective on why the life and times of Opportunity was monumentally important. And finally, Industrial Light & Magic recreates moments of Opportunity’s life on Mars with fantastic imagery that will make the experience feel incredibly real. All these visual elements get an extra burst of life from the music. Both the electric score from composer Blake Neely (The Pacific, Pan Am) and the “wake up songs” used to energize the NASA scientists give Good Night Oppy a happy roll.

Individuals who don’t enjoy documentaries, or find space exploration a boring, silly, folly may not enjoy Good Night Oppy as much as others. This is about as by-the-book as the genre gets. There’s a dream that finally comes true against all odds, huge moments of doubt and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, with an overall touching story. Also, documentarian “purists,” may not appreciate the recreated footage. As real as it looks, it is a digital construction (so don’t be fooled!).

Good Night Oppy is a fantastic documentary. It sheds light on this amazing, and unexpected mission in a very accessible and engrossing manner. It comes highly recommended for all ages—from young budding scientists with stars in their eyes all the way to those who can remember the journey into space since its inception.

Good Night Oppy is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Recommended if you Enjoyed: Wall-E, The Martian, From the Earth to the Moon

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