Approaching the Unknown

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Approaching the Unknown
Approaching the Unknown.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Elijah Rosenberg
Produced by
Written byMark Elijah Rosenberg
Music byPaul Damian Hogan
CinematographyAdam Newport-Berra
Edited by
  • David Barker
  • Darrin Navarro
  • Matt Rundell
  • Marc Vives
  • Department of Motion Pictures
  • Loveless
  • Hinkson Entertainment
Distributed by
Release date
  • June 3, 2016 (2016-06-03) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[1][2][3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.3 million[4]
Box office$10,232[5][6]

Approaching the Unknown is a 2016 American science fiction drama film written and directed by Mark Elijah Rosenberg in his feature debut. It stars Mark Strong in the lead role of Captain William Stanaforth, the first person on a lone mission to Mars. Luke Wilson and Sanaa Lathan are also featured in supporting roles. It was released on June 3, 2016 by Paramount Pictures and Vertical Entertainment.


Captain William Stanaforth (Strong) is on a one-way solo mission to Mars, taking humanity’s first steps towards colonizing it. Although the entire world is watching him, he is completely alone on the space ship. After liftoff and the subsequent rocket separations, Stanaforth takes his suit off to relax and is set on course to Mars by the team on the ground.

Through flashbacks we see how Stanaforth had come up with the idea to create water (H
) by supercompressing sand/dirt and combining the separate hydrogen and oxygen byproducts. It is by this synthesis that the mission is made possible.

Stanaforth's water generation apparatus malfunctions during his mission to Mars. Rather than return to Earth as protocol requires, he takes manual control of his spacecraft and continues to Mars. His spacecraft becomes entangled with a nebula and through voiceover we hear Stanaforth ruminate on the nature of matter and space. Stanaforth says, "This is why I came here. To give everything up. For one moment of pure wonder." Stanaforth is then seen in his spacesuit, exiting the spacecraft.

Without explanation, the scene cuts to Stanaforth, clean-shaven in his spacecraft, preparing to land on Mars. Stanaforth lands on, then walks, on Mars. As he walks, we hear Stanaforth say, "Nothing has ever lived here. Nothing has even died here. Maybe I'll live forever."



In April 2016, Paramount Pictures and Vertical Entertainment acquired distribution rights to the film.[7] The film was released on June 3, 2016.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

The film has received mixed reviews from critics. It has a critic approval rating of 45% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 5/10 based on 20 reviews.[9] It also has a score of 53 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 13 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[10]

Despite its mixed reactions, Strong's performance was praised, with Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times saying: "If Approaching the Unknown isn't entirely satisfying, Mr. Strong reaches high with his portrayal of the unraveling of a man who believes survival is a matter of engineering."[11]


  1. ^ Approaching the Unknown at AllMovie. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  2. ^ Approaching the Unknown at Rotten Tomatoes (movie info). Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  3. ^ "Approaching the Unknown". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. (Movie Details). Retrieved June 20, 2016
  4. ^ Winfrey, Graham (June 10, 2016). "How a First-Time Filmmaker Sold His Sci-Fi Movie to Paramount Before It Was Finished". IndieWire. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  5. ^ "Approaching the Unknown". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "Approaching the Unknown". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  7. ^ A. Lincoln, Ross (April 21, 2016). "Sci-Fi Thriller 'Approaching The Unknown' Gets Distribution Through Paramount & Vertical Entertainment". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  8. ^ Collis, Clark (May 24, 2016). "Mark Strong is heading to Mars in exclusive clip from sci-fi drama Approaching the Unknown". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  9. ^ "Approaching the Unknown (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "Approaching the Unknown Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  11. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (June 2, 2016). "Review: In 'Approaching the Unknown,' Mark Strong Trades Earth for Mars". The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2016.

External links[edit]