Return to Space is a bit too neatly packaged and overly idealistic about what SpaceX might mean for space travel. By turning their focus up to the stars, the filmmakers, unfortunately, ignore the myriad issues that private space travel creates on earth.
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The film’s scattershot focus — in stark contrast to the breathless immediacy of “The Rescue” — and advertorial tone diminish the sheer thrill of watching the company land an orbital class rocket for the first time.
Glowing with grandiose pronouncements and uplifting sentiment, Return to Space, a draggy documentary about America’s first manned spaceflight since 2011, could be easily repurposed as promotional material for Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
It’s a return to dramatic accounts of blastoffs, followed by soul-filling footage from beyond our sheltering atmosphere and implacable gravity; a portrait, by reflected light from fiery boosters, of one of Earth’s most curious (in every respect) overachievers; and a testament to failing upward—far, far upward.
Chin and Vasarhelyi make a solid case for why space exploration should continue, and the benefits we could reap from it, provided it doesn’t keep our heads perpetually lost in the clouds.
The film is a relatively smooth blend of optimism for a rejuvenated emphasis on human exploration in the beyond, and branded content promoting a controversial businessman.