'Mars in the Movies' is the first book dedicated to Mars in films

Fictional representations of Mars in science fiction genre have been popular for over a century. Interest in Mars has been stimulated by the planet’s dramatic red colour, by its relative proximity to Earth, by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be able to support life, and by the tantalising prospect of the human colonisation of Mars in the foreseeable future.

The fascination with the ‘Red Planet’ was further reinvigorated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when an optical illusion perceived by astronomers observing Mars using early low-resolution telescopes was erroneously interpreted by astronomer Percival Lowell as a complex, seemingly artificial, network of canals left behind by a dying Martian civilization struggling to irrigate the planet’s dry surface.

Actual spaceflights to the planet Mars in the second half of the 20th century, particularly seminal events such as the landing of the first autonomous mechanized scientific laboratory to successfully operate on Mars, in the 1976’s Viking programme of a pair of space probes by the United States, inspired a great deal of renewed interest in the Mars-related fiction.

Correspondingly, stories about the ‘Red Planet’ and its purported inhabitants (benevolent or otherwise) have been a staple of science fiction movies for more than a century, ever since the early days of cinema.

Red Planet and its purported inhabitants (benevolent or otherwise) have been a continual staple of science fiction movies and TV series since the early days of cinematography.

Therefore, it comes as a surprise that, until the present day, there hasn’t been published a single specialised book that would be devoted solely to the sub-genre of Mars movies. Now, Thomas Kent Miller, a former NASA employee and a retired magazine editor, tries to fill this gap by presenting the reader with the ‘Mars in the Movies’ – the encyclopaedic volume containing a comprehensive recapitulation of all movies that ever featured the ‘Red Planet’.

This thorough survey covers 98 more (and less) significant movies, television films and miniseries, as well as direct-to-video productions focusing on Mars. It is clear that the author put some effort into his research, as the Wikipedia lists only 30-or-so Mars-themed films. The features, from Thomas A. Edison’s 1910’s silent, black-and-white 5-minute short ‘A Trip to Mars’ to Ridley Scott’s 2015’s blockbuster The Martian, the author covers them here all, discussing the movies in their historical context, while also examining the evolution of special effects and different cinematic approaches throughout the years. Where available, cast, crew and production information is provided, along with the plot summary and short quotes from critics, whether praising or disparaging.

Mars in the Movies – A History by Thomas Kent Miller was published by McFarland & Co and is available in paperback (277 pages) and e-book (Kindle) editions with RRP £36.95 and £11.75 respectively.