The Last Days on Mars, otherwise said, Zombies meet Aliens in The Martian’s setting – without all the quality and the thrill. This is, in short, what you can expect from this movie, ignored by the SF fandom for a (good) reason. It didn’t start that bad, to be honest. The Martian landscape is convincing enough – red dust storm apart (read this NASA’s post on the topic) – and some of the outdoor sequences – on planet and in space – are beautiful.
And you have Liev Schreiber and Olivia Williams in the cast, which is always a bonus. Problems start, however, when you realise that this is the end of a six month-mission, and the Tantalus Base’s crew is 19 hours short from flying back when all the hell gets loose. Remarkably unlucky, one might well observe, and accepting the timing is the first attack to your suspension of disbelief. Things from there get worse.
If you go on the official website of the movie, this is what awaits you:
On the eve that the crew of the very first manned expedition to Mars is about to return to Earth, it makes an astounding discovery – fossilised evidence of life on Mars. Oscar® nominated and visionary filmmaker Ruairí Robinson, along with an extraordinary special effects team including the people behind District 9, X-Men: First Class and Avatar, introduce us to a terrifying new landscape, where the scientific discovery of life might be the death of us all.
I won’t go into more details than the trailer gives away – actually, pretty much everything – but you soon realise the following: 1) there’s life on Mars, virus/bacteria-kind like; 2) guess what, it doesn’t like intruders from other planets; 3) surprise, surprise, instead of eating them out or just killing them straight away, what it does…? It transforms them in full-fledged zombies. Don’t ask why, there’s no logic here, apart from sheer lack of imagination. And expect an Alien-style airlock scene with subsequent expulsion into space (because what else you can do with something you can’t kill?).
I can’t but agree with the conclusions of Rotten Tomatoes (which gave the movie an abysmal 20% rate): “Neither intelligent enough to work as thought-provoking sci-fi nor trashy enough to provide B-movie thrills, The Last Days on Mars proves as cinematically barren as the titular planet.”
However, it’s on Netflix right now, and if you are, like me, starved for SF movies, you can devote a couple of hours: just don’t hold your breath.