As well as the pile of crummy b/w westerns I bought, I also picked up this DVD: The Last Days on Mars. Never heard of it but took a punt on it.
Turns out it only had a limited cinematic outing and got so-so reviews.
Anyhow i watched it at the w/e, and again yesterday after recovering from my parents’ visit.
Its actually not bad. Its at the harder end of sci-fi, so Mars is still a hostile environment with all the attendant hazards of solar radiation and decompression. the actors therefore spend most of their time suited up, if not with helmets on. This means you do have to pay attention as to who is doing what, where and when
The premise is quite simple: The team of the first manned station on Mars (Tantalus station) is packing up ready to be relieved by a new team, and are keen to find something to make their mark in the history books. One of them does just that discovering what appears to be evidence of biological activity – and of course decides to revisit the site of the discovery at which point it all goes a bit pear shaped. More of which later with spoilers.
As I said the film is not bad, and is actually quite good. The downside I felt was the beginning sequence, where the 8 crew are introduced, along with the great discovery. This was IMHO rushed. the first time I watched it I lost track of the characters. It was on the second viewing that I appreciated that actually, the characters were well drawn, it was just the pacing was too quick. The character above (Kim) was a hard arse character, and should have got more time to be developed so that her (inevitable) betrayal was more punchy.
The rest of the film was better paced, if somewhat predictable, except for the final sequence where the relief team acted like dummies. The final scene though was unpredictable.
As well as the over fast pacing, it is not shown why Dalby is so upset by Marko’s loss, nor why the team should try a night time rescue of a non-responsive crew member from a fissure without the right equipment – a few more torches might have helped a lot !
The mirco organism itself could have done with some more explanation – I’d have extended the scene where Kim find’s Marco’s records and expand on what sort of organism it was, with Kim speculating on how it survived, what it was and so on to build up the tension as to why they really didn’t want to mess with it.
Similarly, whilst the surviving team members were agog at how their ex-team mates, exposed to mars’ tenuous atmosphere were still up and going, we could have had a description (at least alluded to) of the damage to the human physiology of exposure to those conditions, again ramping up the tension.
Then there is the examination of the blood from the team leader, again some speculation could have been added as to how the organism was reprdoucing, what it was doing and how it was making the cadavers move.
Well those are three negative things, but I still think the films a good ‘un. Not the best but still good.
On the plus side, the slow spread of the effects of the organism were good, it wasn’t a sudden switch over. The team members as they succumbed to it played out nicely. The exception was Kim’s death which was not shown only assummed (sequel – More Days on Mars ?). The “killing” of lane was also good – not often to see the main protagonist bash someone’s brains out. 😉
The final fight sequence and aftermath were good. And the bleak ending was in keeping with the hard edged nature of the sci-fi in the film.
Lots of great ideas for sci-fi scenarios utilising all those space suited figures I’ve got. 🙂