Last Day On Mars
Another red planet stinker I got from the Red Box. It really does seem like a curse, trying to make movies related to Mars... though I have to say I liked John Carter very much, but I'm talking about more technological sci fi movies.
Liev Schreiber stars as an astronaut suffering PTSD spells as a recurring point of plot convenience from the aftermath of a near-death experience with an airlock accident on the flight TO Mars. He maintains a pained, sour expression thru-out the film, I think because he read the script and still had to do the picture. He and his international team, commanded by a Canadian who never says "eh", "a-boat", or gets upset, have been exploring the planet for months and are about to be relieved by an incoming expedition. They are all pretty frustrated at not having any great science discoveries to show for their time, and the feeling of tension and disappointment as their time runs down is one of the successfully communicated things in this otherwise bad film. Of course, just as they are almost out of time, they find... something.
The art direction is lovely on this picture, and the effects work and sound is all good. They don't bother to depict the lower gravity on Mars here, though, and in a couple of scenes, that would have been key.
The plot is just terrible: a centuries-dormant but ebola-like bacteria which obviously finds itself completely compatible with our biochemistry infects the astronauts one by one and turns them into rampaging zombies who kill and eat, have lost human consciousness but are able to work space suits, (though they don't breathe) handle and deploy tools and explosives, using a hand drill as a weapon in one instance, or damage key elements of a computer and comms system rack, and work airlock controls... but not drive a rover. Must not have a zombie learner's permit yet. But they can chase a rover all day and night on foot with amazing tracking skills. Meanwhile, the astronauts have never seen a zombie film, and never improvise any weapons, nor try to subdue the zombies with anything but fisticuffs.
In John Scalzi "Redshirts" fashion, the radio coms to the incoming space ship and Mission Control at Earth only work when the script needs them to, as does all the shiny tech on the station... The astronauts neither question nor learn from anything in their situation, even when shown incontrovertible evidence. They don't recognize symptoms or patterns that have been painfully and repeatedly explained to the audience. They make stupid plans, then fail to execute them properly. Or they don't plan at all, just react. They have, none of them, ever seen a movie like the one they are in, and so everybody is constantly breaking suit protocols, only to wonder after the fact if they have now been exposed.
It reminds me of:
And not single one is altruistic: the first thing you'd expect space-exploring heroes to do is WARN the incoming people and Mission control to NOT come down and NOT pick up the crew, because of the infection.
The incoming expedition is full of MENSA rejects too: when the always never quite working coms barely get thru a garbled warning, everybody in orbit boards the lander to fly down to their imminent doom in a situation they know nothing about, leaving the ship in orbit, unmanned.
Don't bother with this one unless you are a student of art direction and can watch with the sound turned off.