Rating: 2 out of 5
Based on a short story entitled ‘The Animators’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘The Last Days On Mars’ begins rather promisingly.
Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson manages to paint a desolate yet picturesque landscape, using the deserts of Jordan as a striking substitute for the rocky, barren surface of the Red Planet.
Here, we find the eight-person crew of Tantalus Base — weary, homesick and tense. Heading into the final day of a six-month scientific expedition, most of the astronauts are understandably eager to return home.
Besides the astronauts’ frayed nerves, the mission itself remains fairly uneventful — until Russian crew member Marko discovers evidence of alien life in the form of bacteria.
The premise and situation feels like a marriage between Moon and Prometheus … but unfortunately ‘The Last Days on Mars’ quickly proves to be far less intelligent than either.
Reluctant to share credit for his find, Marko rashly decides to collect a sample of the bacteria on his own. Sadly for him, the dig turns disastrous when the excavation ground he stands on collapses into a cavern.
Marko is now infected by the virulent bacteria, and the alien disease quickly spreads to the poor folks who attempt to retrieve his body. Once infected, the victims die before being reanimated as violent, murderous zombies, reminiscent of the Reavers from Joss Whedon’s Serenity.
Murderous zombies plague the already haphazard film
Now this is where the movie totally begins to fail — turning from interesting to stupid, before painfully devolving into plain boring. The extraterrestrial zombies soon attack the base and start killing people with, um, power drills (seriously).
Now there’s nothing wrong with claustrophobic, close-quarters alien attacks done properly, but Robinson stages his action sequences in the most haphazard, confusing manner possible — full of strobe lights and unclear perspective.
While helter-skelter mayhem along darkened corridors conveys the chaos of the situation, it stops being able to engage the audience when we can’t even understand what’s happening or who is in peril.
Not that it matters though. As ill-conceived as the zombies, camera work and techno-babble are, the characters are even less thought out. Protagonist Vincent (Liev Schreiber) is the only one who’s kind of fleshed out, coming close to resembling a real, three-dimensional human being. However, the rest are lazy stock types, caricatures to be killed off at the script’s whim.
Vincent even has a token love interest in the form of Lane (Romola Garai), a development that’s contrived to bring weight to the film’s conclusion. Instead we’re left rolling our eyes and feeling utterly emotionless during events that are supposed to be tragic.
What’s the point of putting people in dangerous situations when the viewers have no investment in their well-being? ‘The Last Days on Earth’ is essentially a video game, and a pretty dull one at that. You’d be better off renting Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’ on DVD or playing ‘Mass Effect’ on your computer at home.
‘Last Days On Mars’ opens in cinemas 5 December