Good, Bad & Ugly review: The Last Days On Mars

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 40% (Critics) / 94% (Audience)
Directed By: Ruairi Robinson
Written By: Sydney J. Bounds and Clive Dawson
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Elias Koteas and Olivia Williams
Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Synopsis: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. (Source)

The Good:
Olivia Williams is the sole acting standout in this movie. In her role as the cluelessly acerbic science/medical officer she provides the only example of a fully formed and realized character amidst cyphers and stock character models. This film would have probably been much better served by making Williams’ character the main protagonist instead of Liev Schrieber’s character.
The premise of some mysterious bacteria on Mars turning members of the crew into extremely aggressive, homicidal and thirsty zombie-like creatures was a good one too. Even if it was never treated with the wink and a nod that something this ridiculous should get.

The Bad:
Every single character in this movie save for one was so forgettable and none of them made me care enough about them to even be a tiny bit concerned for their safety when all of the space zombies started running around. And the relationships that these characters had with one another that were supposed to make me, as a viewer< care felt hollow and untrue. These characters were so shallow and unformed that they seemed to care as little about one another as I did about them as a group.

The Ugly
This was a very mopey film with a bit too many heavy handed dramatic beats when the material did not rise to the that level. I am not saying this should have been a comedy or anything but it should not have been such a morose film. I mean it is a movie about space zombies…you can’t attempt to make high art when that is what your entire movie is based around. The director’s of this film should have been forced to watch the Doctor Who special, “The Waters of Mars” to get a good idea of how to tackle this subject without sucking all the enjoyment out of the experience.

Final Verdict: Space zombies from Mars… that premise should be a movie that writes itself and automatically becomes a classic bit of sci-fi/horror that will be looked at as a major cinematic achievement by horror geeks everywhere. Yet THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is such a joyless, unfun bit of schlock that is so clueless about what it is supposed to be that it fancies itself some sort of highbrow science fiction movie. If the folks involved with this movie had embraced the geeky awesomeness of Space Zombies from Mars and had just an ounce of fun with the concept, this could have been a really good movie. Instead it is a mildly distracting way to spend 2 hours if you have nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday morning.

Grade: D

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