The Last Days on Mars – Breaking the Red Planet Curse?

The Last Days on Mars is currently available on instant Netflix

The Last Days on Mars

 

The Last Days on Mars (2013) – Rated R

While a crew of astronauts on Mars waits for a ship that will return them to Earth, one discovers a strain of bacteria that turns humans into killers.”

“wearing a space suit is exactly the same as wearing a corset. It’s equally uncomfortable” – actress Romola Garai (Rebecca Lane)

I love science fiction.

Poor Mars. Our closest neighbor gets so little respect. Once the subject of the travelogue Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, the red planet retaliated over the years with Invaders from Mars (1953 and 1986) and The War of the Worlds (1953) began, culminating in Tim Burton’s delightful yet uneven Mars Attacks! (1996). We even had a nice television adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in 1980. Apparently Mars decided to retaliate after The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998), going after the movies themselves.

This century has not been kind to the red planet. Brian DePalma’s Mission to Mars (2000) cost 90 million dollars and returned 60 million domestic. Red Planet (also 2000) had a 70 million dollar budget and returned 17 million domestically. John Carpenter’s latecomer Ghosts of Mars (2001) was budgeted at 28 million and only returned 8 million domestically.

Mars movies remained off the plate for a decade until Disney decided to try a double shot. Disney’s Mars Needs Moms (2011) bombed so badly that the following year they released their movie adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels as John Carter instead of John Carter of Mars. It too bombed at the box office.

The Last Days on Mars is much more modestly budgeted and partially funded by the British Film Institute and the Irish Film Board. The movie starts as hard science fiction but takes only a little over a quarter of an hour to turn into a horror movie. It is still good but those liking their science fiction without horror may be disappointed.

Acting is quite good across the board with everyone taking the proceedings quite seriously. Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas are the bigger names in the cast but Romola Garai, Johnny Harris, and Olivia Williams hold their own.

Special effects are utilitarian and not flashy but are executed well. Makeup of the infected is nicely done. Sets and cinematography are simplified and functional. The script keeps things moving at a fairly brisk pace.

First time director Ruairi Robinson did a nice job putting all of these elements together. The Last Days on Mars is a good, but not great, independent science fiction horror movie.