The Last Days on Mars

2014-05-16 07:47
What it's about:

In the final hours of their mission to Mars, a group of astronaut explorers finally find what they came for: evidence of life on the Red Planet. With that discovery, however, comes a great price that may prevent these intrepid explorers and scientists from ever going home again.

What we thought:

There's a real sense of deja vu that comes with watching The Last Days on Mars. Of course, part of that undoubtedly comes from the dozens upon dozens of science fiction and horror stories that have already tackled pretty much exactly the same ground over and over again, but mostly it's because I watched Europa Report just a few weeks ago. Oh sure, the two movies aren't exactly the same. Europa Report was set on one of Saturn's moons, makes extensive use of the found footage gimmick and its heroes die through increasingly ridiculous mishaps but the similarities remain overwhelming.

Both feature astronauts exploring a nearby planetary body for signs of life in the not too distant future and both of their plots revolve around something that goes very wrong when the life in question is actually found and building conflicts between the members of their respective, nationally diverse crews. To be fair though, it's very much to The Last Days on Mars' benefit that it is so easily comparable to Europa Report. In comparison to most films/ novels/ TV shows of its type, it falls way, way short but when held up against the unbelievably terrible Europa Report, it suddenly starts to look like something of a masterpiece.

Obviously, I use “masterpiece” advisedly and very much relatively but it does at least have a few good things going for it. First, it has an all-round impressive cast led by Liev Schrieber and featuring such largely dependable names as Olivia Williams, Ramola Garai and Elias Koteas – and they don't seem to be slumming it either, as their performances are uniformly solid. With celebrated British cinematographer Robbie Ryan behind the lens, it also looks pretty great with high production values and perfectly decent special effects rounding out a film that looks way more expensive than its relatively meagre seven-million pound (it's an Irish/ UK production) budget would suggest. Also, for a first time director, Ruairi Robinson puts together a confidently made piece of work that at the very least hints that there may be better things to come, even if it itself doesn't really deliver.

The problems with the film are multi-fold. It's hopelessly unoriginal and often head-bashingly stupid, while also also being very underwritten in terms of both its characters and its plot. Most offensively, however, The Last Days on Mars is mind-numbingly boring. Technically the film is actually set during the last hours of this mission to Mars but it feels so drawn out and monotonous that by the time you leave the cinema, you really will feel like you've been there for days.

The film features plenty of inter-personal conflict, nauseating shaky camera action scenes and a fairly ruthless antagonistic force (I assume that most people know what this force is by now, but I will remain mum on its just in case) but it took all I had to stay awake for what is really a perfectly respectable 100 minute running-time.

What it comes down to then, is probably this: the unoriginality of these sorts of films have gone from being merely a single flaw into a crucial failing that negates any other qualities that the film in question may have. We have seen this story so often and so frequently that it has now officially become impossible to be terrorized, thrilled or even mildly engaged by the events that unfold. You don't even have to be a huge genre nerd to be able to recognize and predict every single step this film takes long before it ever takes it. For a movie that is basically selling itself on its sense of suspense, this is one flaw that it never had a hope in hell of ever overcoming.

The Last Days on Mars looked to be a impressive directorial debut but it is quickly sunk by a plot that is the very definition of boringly generic.
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mwabz 2014/05/17 6:43 PM
  • Rating:
it was terrible!
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