Next up on this year's list of films about us flesh and bone types kicking about the void is The Last Days on Mars which comes to us with the promise of a quite starry cast (pun intended) that includes Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas and Olivia Williams.
What is surprising and worth mentioning about that is the fact this got made at all, let alone with those people involved. At the front of the film, as is usually the case with low budget films with ambitious amounts of effects, there is a never ending list of production companies. The amazing thing about this is how they all read the script and gave it the thumbs up. One production company full of short-attention span morons I can buy but all 10 (or however many there were) at the head of this film stumping up filthy moola to put it into production, I just don't understand. Then you factor in the writer, director and cast and you are left, when the film ends, scratching your head thinking "wait, have NONE of you seen another horror sci-fi film ever? Did you all have your brains wiped after a bus accident and think this was a valuable use of your time and resources?"
Now, let me explain. My confusion comes because the film, The Last Days on Mars, is, hands down, the most generic, obvious and mundane film I have ever seen. Earlier in the year my friend James and I took in Stranded, a Christian Slater starring, moon set, film that had clearly been made in a shed in Skegness for the cost of some Ginsters pasties and a packet of cheese and onion crisps and even that had more going on in it than this. True, you couldn't always tell what the hell was going on and the plot seemed to revolve a lot around doors opening and closing but still it was less generic than The Last Days on Mars.
In a nutshell this is the plot: A rag tag band of bored and annoyed astronauts are finishing up their scientific fact finding mission on Mars. There's a tetchy, by the bookish, type, a pure-as-the-driven-moon-rock type who hangs around keeping a level head when all about are shitting bricks, the out-of-depth captain who makes all the wrong decisions and a roguish, mumbling engineer who happens to be claustrophobic. Rounding out the group are a bunch of nondescript nobodies who look like they've just wandered in off the set of Coronation Street (a soap opera) filming in the studio next door. There's also a European chappy we never get to know who discovers living bacteria, breaks the rules to go out and examine further, the ground gives way, he falls in and becomes an alien infected Mars zombie. He then quickly infects someone else and the two undead space monsters shuffle back to the camp to pick off the panicky, inept and idiotic crew one by one in a quick and not interesting way.
Now normally I'd be all for that because a film that is, in essence, "Infected rage zombies from Mars" with Liev Schreiber should be awesome. Should be tremendous. Should be right up my street. The trouble is, imagine that film but made by really boring people with no sense of fun. Imagine that film made by a bunch of people that think they're are being innovative and different while being wholly derivative. Who read the short story this was apparently based on and thought "hmmm I haven't heard of this before, this will be a perfect movie?" It's Contamination, Leviathan, The Thing, Alien and a hundred others like them but with none of the style, wit, charm, creativity or talent.
Don't get me wrong, it's acted fine, looks good, the effects are impressive and there's even a little bit of decent blood letting but the script is inept, the idea redundant, the score non existent and the finished film, dull.
The title sequence, long slow vista shots and weird claustrophobic flashbacks all fool you into believing this could be another Moon type scenario. An art-house space picture with good acting, some psychological and emotional depth and maybe even a decent twist. Sadly that is not the case, you have no hint, really, of who any of these people are, beyond their generic cliches and even when the alien rage beasties attack nobody really does anything. Things are tried quickly and abandoned, mistakes are made left and right like these people were college co-eds in a mid 90s Roger Corman produced slasher film and the ending is as pointless as it is dull.
I really wanted to write some praise for this but, unfortunately, all I was left with was a sense of "this got made? how did THIS get made?" Also how do you have a film like this and NEVER use the line 'Is there life on Mars?' or ANY Bowie reference for that matter! Disappointed!