July 31, 2016

The Last Days on Mars

Ruairi Robinson, 2013
On paper, The Last Days on Mars is a movie that I probably should have liked more than I did. A group of space explorers, led by Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber), stumbles upon an organic microbe on Mars that infects the astronauts and basically turns them into space zombies. Just the idea of space zombies is great. Not done a lot, a variation from the saturated horror sub-genre.

But Last Days is a film that's just lacking. Definitely not from a production standpoint. It's always amazing how, even bad space movies, always seem to have really elaborate production design. The spaceship and it's surrounding areas looks and feels authentic. You never are thinking that it's just a group of actors in space-suits sweating their asses off in a desert in Jordan (where it was actually filmed). You discover that their clock has basically run out on their mission, leaving them with an experience but with nothing really tangible in terms of a monumental discovery. This displeases them, particularly Kim (Olivia Williams). She was clearly hoping to be one of the explorers to really find something to bring back to planet earth. Something that would give them immortal status in the science world. When Marko (Goran Kostic) discovers microscopic life in the lab, he secretly dips out to get more samples. At this point the film really has you locked in, eagerly awaiting to see what is in the petri dish.

But the film becomes a far cry from Alien. Weak script is really to blame. This is a group of scientists, and nothing that ever really comes out of their mouth feels very scientific. When Vincent is lowering himself into a sinkhole, he sees some stalagmites. You would think his assessment of the organic matter would solicit some intelligent response, but instead he says something along the lines of "whatever it is, it's alive". Oh wow. Even Avatar managed to provide significantly more sophisticated dialogue when you were in that alien world. The film never manages to carve out it's own niche. It just becomes another horror film of the scary thing picking everyone off without any twists and turns. The film does manage to weave together an interesting conclusion. This is definitely a film that could be added to a list called "Bad movies that could have good sequels".

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