Last Days on Mars Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Film Screened by Magnet Releasing
Directed by Ruairi Robinson
Written by Clive Dawson, based on the short story by Sydney Bounds
2013, 98 minutes, Rated R
Theatrically released on December 6th, 2013
Liev Schrieber as Vince Campbell
Romola Garai as Rebecca Lane
Elias Koteas as Charles Brunel
Olivia Williams as Kim Aldrich
Warning! There are spoilers in the first three paragraphs!
Welcome to the Tantalus Base on its Last Days on Mars (insert wah-wah trumpet pun here): humankind’s first joint effort to study soil samples from Mars. Representatives from the US, Britain, and Russia are there, but for some reason not China despite their growing presence in present day military and economic affairs. In just 19 hours, the Aurora landing ship will come to pick up the crew that has been working diligently for 6 months and return them to Earth – another 6 month trip, but who’s counting?
Actually, Systems Engineer Vince Campbell (Liev Scheriber) is counting. In some unbelievable – no really, unbelievable – way, he managed to pass all the tests and fool the Mission Control that his claustrophobia was under control enough to be a member of this legendary team. He freaked out opened a f*cking airlock on the landing ship and they still let him come to Mars. Okay, sure.
Naturally with just 19 hours to go, the Reckless Russian Stereotype Scientist discovers an anomaly in his last soil sample. Naturally he must check it out. And naturally, the ground beneath the testing site fails, and now there’s an escaped Martian bacteria that makes humans into zombies. Which makes sense, since an alien life form would sync up perfectly with human DNA to make that happen and not just cause acute organ failure.
Forgive my tone. Actually, don’t forgive it because I’m not going to apologize for not liking this boring half-hearted attempt at a space-virus-zombie genre. There are so many loopholes and unanswered questions in Last Days on Mars it seems like a first draft. Why on earth would an alien virus know how to use power tools? Does that mean there is some semblance of higher brain function? But if there is some level of cognizance, why would the newly zombified attack their team? How can the bacteria keep the host locomotive while exposed in a foreign atmosphere? Severe dehydration would leech moisture from the muscles. That would mean atrophy and tearing; they couldn’t keep fighting with supernatural strength. Have any of these people ever read a biology textbook? After watching Europa Report on Netflix, Last Days on Mars is a hollow effort for a sci-fi horror flick; full of predictability and yawns. There are better ideas out there and I’m tired of movies relying on worn out stereotypes and scraped-thin plot twists to make a thriller that thrills no one. They cheapen horror movies and they cheapen extraordinary talent with this drivel.
To be specific, Olivia Williams is f*cking brilliant as unlikeable Kim Aldrich. Kim is cold, calculating, and far too smart for this bullshit. Ms. Williams’ performance is seamless, even during the moment when she is required to apologize to a colleague. The writing is banal at best, but this scene in particular irked me. Ms. Williams was so damn good in this role that I didn’t want any forced nuance to her character. She needed no redemption; she was perfect as she was.
The rest of the cast was fine, but there was so little love between the characters it seemed pretty pointless. No one on the entire station even seemed to have an ulterior motive to save the others except for “the script told me to do it” except Lane (Romola Garai), whose simpering adoration of Liev Schreiber’s Campbell bordered on pathetic.
The Jordan desert landscape looks beautiful on camera, but there’s nothing dramatic done with CGI or special effects to give the setting a Mars-y sort of exotic feel. The technology seems to fall somewhere between the original NCC-1701’s flashing lights and my mom’s iPad. C’mon, we’re on Mars. Let’s get a little flashy here. The sandstorms are fun, but get redundant after the fourth pass. Rather like the zombie attacks.
The Last Days on Mars is a pandering, irritating, unimaginative movie that appeals to no true zombie or horror fans. It sounds blunt, but it’s time we stop putting up with mediocre work and demanding better.
Revoluçion! Viva la undead!
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.