Review: The Last Days on Mars (2013)

December 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last-days-on-mars (3/10) For all the hokum in science fiction, emphasizing the fiction, we occasionally get a film that insists on treating the sci-fi as sci-fact, or maybe they just forget to wink at us. The Last Days On Mars is in the vein of Duncan Jones’ explosively creative micro-budgeted ‘Moon’, except with a full crew instead of Sam Rockwell hanging with his very own Me, Myself and I. Liev Schreiber is the ostensible lead, though this is very much an ensemble cast, evoking memories of the simplicity and effectiveness of the original ‘Alien’ movie, without nary a hint of the suspense.

The Last Days on Mars gives us a cast of characters that simply don’t stand out. Without ever feeling for the characters, the suspense is rendered somewhat null and void, as any one character’s potential demise did not sway this reviewer’s connection or lack thereof with the surviving characters, who seem to only exist to be picked off.

With less than twenty-four hours to go before their six-month mission is over, the crew finds a mysterious crater that they just have to investigate, leading to some quixotic medical revelations, putting their survival and the mission’s effectiveness in jeopardy. As would be predictable, the astronauts lose the initiative, finding themselves in a mysterious survival mode as foreign agents invade and the real horror begins. Relying on zombie-esque transformations rather than stomach blasting alien babies, The Last Days On Mars tries to capitalize on the current popularity of zombies, regardless of the logical shortcomings in a movie about scientists and explorers.

As the characters get picked off towards the inevitably grim and nihilistic conclusion, the film hits all the requisite horror beats without adding anything new to the proceedings except for the setting. Genre-melding of this variety has been done before to greater effect, though I commend The Last Days On Mars for attempting to add a smidgen of gravitas to the silliness of zombification.

Treating zombies and futuristic space technology with the seriousness of a period drama is a curious and bold choice that I believe ultimately causes this rocket’s thrusters to misfire, leaving us with an impressively ambitious but ultimately hollow experience.

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