A group of astronaut explorers succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force while collecting specimens on Mars.
Director Ruairi Robinson's debut film 'The Last Days of Mars' has a great set up to be one hell of a sci-fi horror film. This movie based on a short story by British author Sidney J. Bounds and has elements of some of our favorite sci-fi horror films, growing up including 'Alien', 'The Thing', and 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. What makes this film unique as that it doesn't rely on the big budget action scenes that would usually be served up with a movie like this.
Instead, it centers on a group of scientists and technicians who are just wanting to get back to Earth after being out in space on a job for a long time, when things start to go horribly wrong. It's a great setup, but due to the cheesy script, the film falls into the top waters of a B-Movie rather than a great film that you won't forget anytime soon. 'The Last Days of Mars' is set in the not so distant future where a team of eight scientists and technicians have been scouting out Mars for past and present life. Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) is the senior systems engineer and is joined by a psychologist Robert Irwin (Johnny Harris), a biochemist named Rebecca Lane (Romola Garai), and a couple of geologists named Kim (Olivia Williams) and Marko (Goran Kostic). They and Captain Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) and the two junior technicians Richard (Tom Cullen) and Lauren (Yusra Warsama) are all excited to get back home to Earth, but upset that they haven't found life on Mars.
Right before they are set to leave Mars for the long voyage home, the team learns that one of them has discovered a new life form and is going to take sole credit once back on Earth. However, when two of the crew fall down into a pit beneath's Mars' surface, this new life form infects them, and not in a good way. You can say that the film has a bit of '28 Days Later' added in to it. And one by one, the crew who is about to embark back to Earth are being infected into monsters, void of any human emotion. Just like John Carpenter's 'The Thing', we see an in depth character study of each survivor, and how they deal with this intense and life or death situation.
Betrayal is around every corner, as these once friendly, intelligent co-workers are turned into something inhuman. And what makes 'The Last Days of Mars' so effective is that instead of seeing these monsters and alien life life forms, we see the actor's reactions to them, with very little screen time for the actual horror, which is very effective. Remember how effective 'Alien' was when they didn't show the monster all that much. They same can be said for this film. The cast and crew shot in the desert for an extended amount of time with the help of a little CG to make the most realistic terrain of Mars, and Robinson's eye makes this movie look amazing and beautiful. It's one of the most beautiful film set on Mars I've ever seen.
Schreiber and Koteas turn in solid performances with the script that they're given, but this couldn't have been a knock out if the dialogue was a little better. Overall, 'The Last Days of Mars' is a solid entry into the sci-fi/horror genre, but it might not be that memorable for people to add to their Top Ten list of all time.
'The Last Days on Mars' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image as whole looks great and has been significantly altered in post production to give it the the final look that we see on this Blu-ray. Because they used both practical and CG effects, they had to work with the lighting, color, and detail of the image here to get the best looking picture. The detail is quite vivid and sharp, revealing great closeups of the actor's faces where we can see wrinkles, scars, and individual hairs nicely.
Background items also look good with vivid textures, which gives this image some decent depth. In the darker scenes, the picture still maintains its sharpness, never crossing over into the murky territory. Colors look great as well, but don't expect a very warm color palette. It consists of mostly blues, grays, and whites. But that makes the red tint of Mars pop right off screen. Black levels are always deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. The only issue I noticed was some slight banding here and there, but other than that, this is free of any compression issues.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and it sounds great. This is not an over-the-top sci-fi action flick. The sound here is cautiously designed to give the viewer the biggest impact when something happens, no matter how big or small it is. The sound effects are very natural and come with a very robust and lively sound. The crescendos are loud and powerful when characters have hallucinations and are full, yet softer when things go back to normal.
The action scenes pack a powerful punch with a decent kick from the sub. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing that I noticed either. The directionality is quite good here as well. They did a superb job with the ambient noises and sound effects in the rear speakers, and it fully immerses you in the vastness of space. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is very wide here too. And let's not forget about Mac Richter's score, which always adds to the tone of the film and sounds great.
The Making of 'The Last Days on Mars' (HD, 16 Mins.) - Director Ruairi Robinson and the cast discuss what it was like filming in the desert while wearing the heavy space costumes. They also talk about the film's central themes, characters, and working with each other.
Analyzing the Visual Effects (HD, 6 Mins.) - Here is a great look at how the visual effects team made the surface of Mars look so realistic.
Behind the Scenes Comparisons (HD, 4 Mins.) - Here is a short look at some of how some of the films were shot with a picture in picture of the final looking product.
AXS TV: A Look at 'The Last Days on Mars' (HD, 4 Mins.) - Here is the standard promo junket with interviews with the cast and crew, and scenes spliced in from the movie.
Trailers (HD, 8 Mins.) - Trailers from other Magnolia and Magnet films.
'The Last Days of Mars' has some great moments of suspense and horror. If you're expecting an all out action sci-fi movie, this is not the film for you, as it relies heavily on character development to engage and scare you. If you don't mind a slow burn psychological thriller set in space, then you might enjoy this. The video and audio presentations are great, and the few extras are decent. Worth a look.