Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Last Days on Mars for Cinemagoers?

Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Hollywood has put all manner of things on Mars over the decades in futile attempts to convince itself – and us – of the Red Planet’s box-office worthiness: Santa Claus, Robinson Crusoe, ghosts, Val Kilmer, John Carter, even moms...

Now, with The Last Days on Mars, we can add zombies to the list.

Magnet Releasing announced earlier this month that they have acquired U.S. rights to the upcoming sci-fi thriller, which has been produced by Focus Features International.

The feature film debut of helmer Ruairi Robinson (an Academy Award-nominated director of sci-fi shorts and animations), The Last Days on Mars stars Liev Schreiber (pictured), Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams and Tom Cullen. Its official blurb reads as follows:

“On the last day of the first manned mission to Mars, a crew member of Tantalus Base believes he has made an astounding discovery – fossilized evidence of bacterial life. Unwilling to let the relief crew claim all the glory, he disobeys orders to pack up and goes out on an unauthorized expedition to collect further samples. But a routine excavation turns to disaster when the porous ground collapses, and he falls into a deep crevice and near certain death. His devastated colleagues attempt to recover his body. However, when another vanishes they start to suspect that the life-form they have discovered is not yet dead. As the group begins to fall apart it seems their only hope is the imminent arrival of the relief ship Aurora.”

No mention of space zombies in there, you’ll note. For details of the floating dead you’ll need to peruse reviews by critics who were lucky(?) enough to catch the movie at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. They've been keen to acknowledge the cinematic flare of Ruairi Robinson, but ultimately have been left underwhelmed by his finished product.

Here are some snippets...

“This murkily derivative sci-fi-horror entry sets its sights disappointingly low in terms of story and ideas, leaving the viewer’s sense of awe unstirred as a solid cast, toplined by Liev Schreiber, trudges its way through what basically amounts to ‘Red Planet of the Dead.’”

 Justin Chang, Variety 

The tropes come on faster and more furiously than the zombies, with the airlock button practically upstaging the actors... What’s missing is a sense of peril... With zombies in the low figures, The Last Days On Mars could lack enough meat for genre fans to feed on, and it needs more brains to bring out the Alien fanbase.” 

Fionnuala Halligan, Screen Daily 

“Glimpses of the baddies got a well-deserved chuckle from some folks in the audience. None of the action is shot in a particularly interesting manner.”

Jordan Hoffman,

“Ultimately, "The Last Days of Mars" provides a window into a great Mars movie that might have been and a reminder that we're still waiting for one”.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Judging by the above comments, it seems unlikely that The Last Days on Mars will be able to lift the Martian Curse that has long wrought havoc on Hollywood in its numerous voyages to the Red Planet. The movie is scheduled for theatrical release in September, ahead of its Ultra VOD release later this year. But, if it plays as lukewarmly with audiences as it has with critics, don’t be surprised if The Last Days on Mars is Mars’ last chance on the silver screen...

Well, for a few years at least.

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