The Aurora 2 Mars mission has but 19 hours left before the crew will lift off the hostile planet and make the six month journey back to Earth. One of the research team, Marco Petrovic (Goran Kostic, insists that a critical outlying sensor be replaced to make the mission a complete success. Reluctantly, Commander Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) agrees that the scientist can perform one last EVA but that decision will have deadly effect on the entire crew in “The Last Days on Mars.”
First-time feature director Ruain Robinson makes the leap into what starts out as a compelling sci-fi space opera. Adapted by tyro scripter Clive Dawson from Sydney J. Bounds’s short story, The Animators (1975), the chronicle of the last day of the Aurora 2 mission – a plotline that could be fraught with believable tensions - quickly slides into cliché when Marco finds bacterial life under the planet’s surface. From this point on, “The Last Days on Mars” is a very conventional monster movie that could take place anywhere.
While Marco collects samples, the earth falls out beneath him and his co-crewman and friend Lauren Dalby (Yusra Warsama) comes to his rescue. Then, both disappear, only to be found walking across the bleak and dangerous landscape. This is where “The Last Days on Mars” borrows from the current popularity of zombie stories, “Alien” and “Jurassic Park” (think zombies replacing raptors). The only reason there is even a story here is based on a bad decision by the man in charge.
Here we have a story that is no where near as good as the veteran cast of character actors. The hero of the film, Vincent Campbell, is well played by Liev Schreiber but he and the rest of the ensemble are hampered by lack of character development. Once the story hook about menacing zombie mutants is established, the film takes on a 10 little Indians pace as, one by one…. Never mind, you already know what will happen. To me, the short story adapted for the film feels too sparse to fill the void of detail needed.
To its credit and relatively small budget, the filmmakers create a setting, at least the cool, sterile interiors of their Mars base, that feels believable. Unfortunately, once the action leaves the base interior things get murky and muddled. In the end, “The Last Days on Mars” is less a science-fiction survival flick than it is a routine zombie monster yarn. I give it a C.
Laura gives "The Last Days on Mars" a C.
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