Movie Review: MARS

I had a really bad weekend for reasons I don't need to get into, and you don't want to know about as they have nothing to do with space.  However, after crying with a sappy movie, I decided I needed a laugh and found this little gem that has a lot to do with space.  Here's the Netflix write-up.

Using the bold, bright colors of a graphic novel, this animated romantic comedy follows three astronauts as they race against a robot-manned spaceship to become the first crew to land on Mars. Along the way, they endure boredom, stress and love. As Charlie (Mark Duplass), Casey (Zoe Simpson) and Hank (Paul Gordon) travel ever closer to the Red Planet, the nature of exploration -- and why we are so drawn to the heavens -- is compellingly examined.
Disregard the hyperbole at the end--they did not "compellingly examine" anything.  This is a dry humor look at space exploration--good, bad, and ugly. 

The Good:  I laughed from the very introduction, which starts with this grand ideal of going back into space...except that we're not so good at building stuff anymore.  It only got funnier when the joint Russian/ESA Mars probe failed.  How timely is that joke?  I chuckled all the way to the end, where the probe displays a message from the President to the intelligent aliens...except that the intelligent aliens had already lost interest and wandered off.  I guess I'm not the only one who wondered if Voyager's golden record, which includes a welcome from Jimmy Carter and the song, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" was really going to make an impact on intelligent life anywhere.  I also fell apart when contamination from Russian snot created life on Mars; in particular because at WorldCon, Brother Guy Consolmagno said in a panel that he was against manned missions to Mars because of the concern of contaminating the environment, so that we would not know what was truly native. 

I will say that you need to be in a mood to laugh and to appreciate dry wit, or this movie might fall flat, but I loved it.

Other things I loved:  The animation style was different--live actors cartoonified.  The dialogue was in keeping with a comic book, as were some of the transitions.  I thought it was clever and a fun change from the slick stuff we're used to.  The hairstyles were a riot, as were the Russian janitors.

The Bad:  This is tough, because I loved this movie.  However, it has a lot of rotten reviews on Netflix, mostly because of the dialogue and very dry humor.  I think you need to be up on some space news and events to appreciate some of the jokes.  If you read this blog, you should get them.  (If not, comment or e-mail me.)  There were a few times when I thought they were being stupid for no good reason, like not having a line on Carlie when he goes EVA.  Surely, they could have fashioned a rope.  I also thought the piddle scene was unnecessary, and not in character for Casey.  Charlie should have instigated is all I can say without spoilers.

The Ugly:  Some folks may find the animation ugly.  You get used to it.  The hairstyles are deliberately ugly.  Russian snot--waaaay ugly! 

Overall, I gave the movie 4 of 5 stars.  I seldom give 5 stars.  I definitely recommend it when you want an evening of popcorn and light viewing.

See it on Netflix:

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