The Last Days on Mars (2013) / Sci Fi-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for brief strong language, strong violence, and frightening images
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Elias Koteas, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Screenplay: Clive Dawson (based on the short story, "The Animators", by Sydney J. Bounds)
Review published November 3, 2013
The Last Days on Mars is a British science fiction/horror hybrid that tells a story set in Earth's future in which we've sent our first manned exploration to Mars for a six-month stint which is just about to wrap up in the next few hours. Except that one of the men in the eight-person crew has made the startling discovery that bacteria had existed on Mars and aims to bring back evidence.
While out to get some samples, the ground caves in beneath him, while the rest of the crew decide they'll make a last-ditch rescue attempt before having to take off for Earth. However, soon there is another disappearance, and then a reappearance of the lost crew, except they're not quite the same as they used to be. Now, the remainder of the crew must battle for survival as they must protect themselves from the cannibalistic infected out there, while also taking precautions not to become infected themselves, or worse, allow any of the strain to return back to Earth.
A decent cast and competent direction from promising Irish first-time feature filmmaker Ruairi Robinson are wasted on a derivative story with The Last Days on Mars, which is yet another entry in the already overcrowded 'zombie infection' subgenre. It's little more than that, as we watch the plot go through some predictable motions up to its conclusion, and outside of the eerie atmosphere to it all, it plays out with little to recommend for someone who isn't an unapologetic zombie-flick enthusiast. As far as the plot, if you've seen Ridley Scott's Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing, you've seen pretty much everything that this film has to offer, only done far better.
For a relatively modest-budget endeavor (reportedly $11 million in US Dollars), the technical specs are fine, even if they seem unspectacular by today's standards. Dust storms, planetary rovers, and spaceships fill the screen without seeming cheap, as well as the relatively convincing Mars landscape, shot in the country of Jordan, in the background. As an aside, one thing I wonder is, if the gravity on Mars is only 38% of that on Earth, why it seemed that all of the characters seemed to move about as if it were exactly the same. I'm not expecting John Carter mile-long leaps, but at least there should have been some adjustments made.
The Last Days on Mars will likely only appeal to two groups of viewers: the ones who've never seen any of the films that this one lifts ideas liberally from, and the ones who have seen them all and can't get enough of their b-movie knockoffs, no matter how imitative they are. While the production values are certainly commendable given the meager resources, this story would have produced a stinker at any budget.
©2013 Vince Leo