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Mars Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

“Mars” is a slick little festival film, which premiered at South by Southwest and isn’t like to go much further. But to not discuss it for that reason would be doing it a disservice, for it’s unique, quite beautiful, and very enjoyable. The story line is familiar, but the way it looks and the dead-pan tone makes it special.

The year is 2015, and mankind is on the brink of landing on Mars. A joint venture between the U.S. and the European Union is expected to be the final step toward reaching the Red Planet. Three astronauts will man the ship. The most high-profile is Charlie Brownsville (Mark Duplass), although he’s inarguably the least necessary. While he is well-known for his heroism in space, as well as his spacewalking abilities, he isn’t a very highly regarded astronaut, and his comrades often refer to him as expendable. Charlie’s good for talking to the press, but he’s just not as talented as Casey Cook (Zoe Simpson), the determined one of the group, or Hank Morrison (Paul Gordon), the somewhat depressed captain.

The film chronicles the mission, its predictable setbacks, and the pride in being the first human beings to successfully land on Mars. We’ve seen this general story plenty of times before, although never with the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that “Mars” espouses. The film is often hilarious, but in a very subtle, sarcastic way. There are no visual gags (expect a little one involving the President and his penchant for cigars). What the film’s screenplay lacks in plot originality, it makes up for with spot-on, smart dialogue.

“Mars” is also quite noteworthy for its animation. The last (and only other) film I’ve seen with rotoscoping is “A Scanner Darkly,” a film I’m not especially fond of but at least looks cool. “Mars” looks infinitely better, however. The planet looks beautiful, almost like an oil painting. We’ve seen plenty of outer space at the cinema before, but this is a look we’ve never seen before.

This film is something to be celebrated, not because it’s emotionally involving or has a really interesting storyline. But some of the most unique aspects of the film (the animation and the fascinating mixture of humor, romance, and science fiction), are unlike honestly unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s a strange little film that I’ve still been thinking about since I saw it at SXSW. I consider myself lucky to have seen it. I hope others get the same chance.

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