If you’ve ever wondered why in the blue-eyed world NASA would send Steve Buscemi and a machine gun into outer space, well now you know! If these brave astronauts had just had a machine gun. Or even a pistol. Crossbow. Pointed stick.
What we’ve got here is a simple outbreak of Space Zombies! Just like the 28 Days version, these zombies are fast, super-strong, virtually un-killable, and with an appetite for human flesh! Created by Hubris Guy falling into a crater full of Martian Zombie Creating Bacteria, one by one the assorted crew of astronauts fall victim to zombification, growing cold, unstoppable and really unattractive. Silly? Certainly. Well done? Mmmm….
The Mars rovers are actually quite nice. The spacesuits are, too. And unlike so many space movies, the space helmets don’t have the internal lights around the face that make it clear that it’s Sandra Bullock or George Clooney in there. Ask anybody who’s ever driven at night, the last thing you want is a lot of bright lights in your windshield. So that’s nice. The spacecraft interiors aren’t half bad, either. Not going for the “Alien” space grunge look, things look clean enough for NASA.
No effort is made to simulate the .3 G Martian gravitation. The movie does, however, not fall into the Deadly Martian Dust Storm that destroys everything. Looking at you, “The Martian”! Yes, Mars has dust storms. No, Mars does not have enough atmosphere to do any damage. The stiffest possible Martian gale wouldn’t register as more than a faint breeze on Earth. Not much air. But plenty of fine dust and low gravity allow for poor visibility. So, congrats on the dust storm score.
The desert landscape is as convincingly Martian as could be done without going full green screen CGI simulated background. It’s OK. At least, no sagebrush or cactus.
We do get a few minutes of adequate microgravity floating blood drop effects once we leave the planet. Not terrible. Aside from the zombies, in fact, most of the effects are fine, given the budget. It’s just that the premise is so ludicrous. Martian microbes have waited for millions, billions of years for a suitable host to come along, just so they can launch an all-out attack on beings they’ve never encountered before. Biologically compatible, right down to needing to eat brains! First contact, bad impression, all I’m saying.
Did you hear about the dyslexic zombie? Who kept shuffling around chanting, “Brian….Brian…Brian….”?
Let’s see. Liev Schreiber, who I thought was a big enough actor not to have to slum like this, but a paycheck is a paycheck, I guess. Whenever you see him, don’t you look around for Wolverine? I know I do. He’s a fine actor with impressive credentials, but he’ll always be fighting Hugh Jackman in my mind.
Hey, it’s that guy from Law and Order SUV! And a token black woman who’s one of the first to cross the human/zombie line. A humane decent philosopher who ends up a coward and a zombie. Some other people. A multinational crew! Liev’s Canadian! Another guy is Serbian, as we’re told at least twice. Doesn’t matter, since he loses the mitteleuropa accent as soon as he gets undead. As do everybody else, one-by-one, haunted house style. Liev alone is left to tell the tale. Call him Ishmael. Unless he’s infected, that is.
Pluses? Nice production design. Decent spacecraft. It’s blessedly short, 90 minutes or so. Not dragged out Nolan style to 3 hours. Only one medium-tedium subplot (Liev does a lot of flashbacking to some dark secret that happened on the trip out from Earth). Reasonable accommodation to “science” if you overlook the whole “Mars bacteria can infect, take over, and enhance a species they’ve never met before thing.”
Minuses? A lot of fighting and wrestling and skulking in the dark. Cutting to black. Confused editing leaves no idea who’s fighting who. Blackness is used to cover up lack of sets. And the fate of the world comes down, as it always must, to a fist fight in outer space. The medical science employed is, to be charitable, questionable. The acting is, uh, workmanlike. But still, it’s short and diverting enough for an Airdyne session. Don’t regret having seen it. Won’t watch it again.
Jake Gyllenhaal had a better time wrasslin’ his extraterrestrial menace in “Life”. Sigourney and crew did a better job of the “who’s next to die” in the good “Alien” movies. The good being 1 and 2 and about a third of 3 and the rest are terrible. There’s maybe too much “28 Days” going on here, but it’s on Mars! Mars zombies!
And Steve Buscemi, they could’ve used you and your Space Madness and that machine gun. Always, always, if you're going to another planet or asteroid or comet, take a machine gun.