Review: Narrated by Werner Herzog, Last Exit: Space Considers Saving Humanity with Long-Range Space Travel

Anyone who claims to be a lover of documentaries would be a fool to miss any film narrated by the great Werner Herzog. Normally, such works are also directed by him as well; however, the new offering Last Exit: Space is actually helmed by his son Rudolph Herzog (executive produced by Werner) and takes a fascinating and honest look at just how realistic the idea of colonizing other worlds actually is. With more than seven billion people on the earth, shrinking resources, and a climate that is becoming increasingly unpredictable, the curiosity surrounding moving some part of the population to Mars or searching for other planets with a similar makeup to Earth has been growing exponentially in recent years.

As it turns out, the news on this front is a mixed bag. Thanks to telescopes and other equipment scanning the universe for information on other planets, it turns out there are quite a few possible candidates that match Earth’s climate and atmosphere; the bad news is that it will take hundreds or even thousands of years to reach them, opening up the discussion for generational space missions, where those who begin the mission would have to procreate in space and not actually make it to the final destination themselves. Sign me up, I guess. Then there’s the only slightly more achievable goal of colonizing Mars, which isn’t nearly as easy as the movies have led us to believe.

The film talks to experts in the field of long-range space travel, a few brave souls independently training for just such a Mars mission, and asks serious questions about whether this path to human survival is even a remotely viable one. But even if the news is grim, having Werner Herzog deliver it in his customary vaguely judgy and disapproving tone makes it seem like we still live in a tolerable world. While the customary statement from most of those interviewed is that it’s probably a better idea if we concentrate on bettering our own planet, some believe we are past the point of no return and that leaving for a better world is the only viable option. Much like his father, Rudolph’s directing style is pretty straightforward in terms of presenting the material, not emphasizing anyone as the least ridiculous plan or presenter, and leaving audiences with a lot to digest as we begin to realize the dire straits we as human have placed ourselves in.

The film is now streaming exclusively on discovery+.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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