Monday, December 16, 2013

The Last Days on Mars

So my plane for Paris (via London) left at 9:10pm on Friday night (13 December 2013) and I took the day off from work to get ready - do laundry (because my machine is still on the blink), pack, forget to do other important things. There were two movies that opened that day that I would like to see on the big screen - The Hobbit 2 and The Last Days on Mars - and I came up with three options:

(1) Hobbit at midnight, stay awake through Last Days at noon and be ready to drop when the plane takes off. A clever plan, but the sort that tends to fail at some point.

(2) Head out to Chestnut Hill to see The Hobbit in HFR at the fancy theater (and maybe in the Super Fancy Seats), so I can finally write that thing about the fancy theater I want to write. Obviously, time-consuming, and since I tend to be curious about new tech, I was a bit concerned about which screenings at which locations would use it, even if I went to Fenway or Boston Common.

(3) Catch The Last Days on Mars at Kendall Square, which is minimally out of my way - in fact, the path I to and from included some errands I needed to run - and was advertising that this movie would only be around for one week, less than my vacation time.

I think I chose poorly, and that's before we get into how I'm kind of sleepy and may have a cold as I write it up, or that the flash drive I save everything to doesn't seem to be anywhere to be found (and I'm reasonably sure I had it at Logan). That doesn't make it a bad movie, but it's gonna have some bad associations.

On the other hand, the first thing I watched here has me pretty happy, but that's tomorrow's post!

The Last Days on Mars

* * (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2013 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, 2K DCP)

Funny thing about The Last Days on Mars: It goes to some impressive lengths to be a large-scale sci-fi movie, and the very size of it makes the whole thing less believable. That's unfortunate, as it could use a feeling of authenticity if it's not going to put as unique a twist on its horror story as you might expect for having it play out on Mars.

Things start to go down less than one Earth-standard day before the Aurora 2 mission is scheduled to hand their base off after six months on the red planet. Technical specialist Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) is ready to go home, though he's not looking forward to the return trip, and not just because it means being stuck in a tiny space with Kim Aldrich (Olivia Williams) - after all, he'll also be in a small space with Rebecca Lane (Romola Garai). With nineteen hours left in the mission, scientist Marko Petrovic (Goran Kostic) makes a discovery that merits an extra trip out to one of the research sites, and there would be no movie if what happened there didn't leave commander Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) in a tight spot.

There are a whole mess of problems with The Last Days on Mars, but one of the biggest is that no matter how many airlocks the crew passes through or times a scene is played out in spacesuits, it never really feels like Mars. The location shooting in Jordan looks great, and though the colorists have made the ground reasonably red and the sky less blue, it doesn't quite do enough to make it feel like an alien world. Worse, the design of the bases and rovers feel wrong, huge and all smooth white curves, not the sort of thing one would expect on early missions where every gram and cubic centimeter on the transport is precious. And when someone throws a rubber ball across the room, it behaves exactly how the viewer expects, not like an object in an environment where the gravity is roughly 37.6% of Earth's.

Full review at EFC.

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