User Reviews (9)

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  • jfloss-331-70374930 March 2012
    Enjoy this sci-fi valentine. Netflix recommended this hybrid animation, so I was game. At first, I was put off by the whole thing, being more of a hard sci-fi fan. But I am also into theater and storytelling, and in that sphere, I ended up really enjoying this piece of art. It has heart and it is earnest and quirky. Once you buy into the style of acting and storytelling (but I suspect many cannot) you will be rewarded with a pleasant and unique sci-fi movie. As another review had noted, the live animation is not as smooth as Linklater's efforts, but it has its own charm. Watch the credits. Very enjoyable. Seriously though, why so much hair gel?
  • First of all don't watch this if you are expecting a cartoon - this is "rotoscope" animation, with live actors being converted to animation by computer and entirely CGI settings, none of it very well done at all. Likewise don't expect a hard SciFi thriller or actioner. In fact, don't expect a formula plot of any kind.

    But if you like quirky, off-beat, a little bit corny comedy this one is completely harmless and fun. No you won't laugh out loud, but you'll chuckle, and you may just smile from credits to credits. The acting is pedestrian but charming, the story is deep as a teaspoon, but the script is cute and the CGI is sort of like the drawings of a sixth grade class. Don't expect much and you'll enjoy this little 90 minute diversion.
  • I saw Mars two nights ago at Revelation Film Festival here in Perth. There is just so much wit and creativity in this movie. The script is sharp, the visuals are brilliant, and Kinky Friedman is the sort of President I'd vote for if I was American. Apart from Kinky the cast were unfamiliar to me, but their performances were all spot on. The marsnauts were especially good in the way they portrayed the shifts in and between their characters. The movie's animation style is somewhat like Waking Life - or some parts of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards - with live action being the base and other elements drawn in. The credits show very neatly how a scene with two marsnauts in their rover is built up. Two people sitting in chairs, with a little magic and a lot of hard work, become space travelers driving across the martian landscape. So why only 9 out of 10? Because so far as I can tell, there is no DVD release in the offing. Damn, because I'd really like to see Mars again. And again.
  • Holy wow, guys, this is one interesting and entertaining movie. A trio of astronauts is sent by NASA to the Red Planet in hopes of finding sentient life. Or life of any kind. To paraphrase the noted mathematician Ian Malcolm, although the planet appears to be barren, life finds a way. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency has sent up an artificially intelligent robot in an effort to beat the Americans.

    This is a stunning animated opus - yes, I said animated - that uses a technique similar to rotoscoping; director Geoff Marslett developed the technique specifically for this film, and it makes the movie look much more like an actual graphic novel. The technique is a real treat. Much like rotoscoping, for this technique scenes are shot as live action and then converted to animation, lending a realistic, colorful look and feel.

    The crew is composed of Hank Morrison (Paul Gordon), the captain and pilot; Dr. Casey Cook (Zoe Dean), the scientist; and Charlie Brownsville (Mark Duplass), who's, well, the backup. The redundancy may not fly in real life (no pun intended), but here we can suspend our disbelief. After all, this is science fiction, with a comic bent.

    The astronauts deal with the boredom of space travel, and in particular the well-named Charlie bemoans the fact that he's much more expendable than his crewmates. In fact, when the trio does arrive at Mars, Morrison and Cook are to head down to the planet in a shuttle while Charlie figuratively keeps the motor running. Morrison is the brooding type, harboring a secret; Cook is the imaginative, energetic type, quickly drawn to the everyman Charlie. And if hanging around doing nothing while the so-called real astronauts do their astronaut thing, Charlie has been directed by NASA to give live interviews to an Entertainment Tonight-like duo (Liza Weil and James Kochalka) that are designed to promote the expensive trip.

    Now, although Charlie has been deemed redundant (by the NASA chief Shep, played by Howe Gelb), he's actually a former hero. Did space walks and such, and was really good at them. So maybe he's not completely useless, and we can forgive NASA for tossing him in the ship. And what a ship! Although there's just the standard astronaut meals and accommodations, there's also a huge (!) garden for seeding Mars. This garden contains a pool, presumably to keep the flora watered, but a pool nonetheless. Pretty darn awesome spaceship, if you ask me. It might be worth noting that the movie, released in 2010, is set in the future - 2015. Okay, maybe the film makers missed this prediction.

    But this isn't a typical sci-fi film - there's philosophy afoot! Why do we want to discover? How do we react to what's out there? What is the worth of knowledge of the stars? All good questions, and thankfully the movie doesn't sit us down and lecture to us on each subject. In fact, the movie's pretty low key, with only a few action sequences - one of which does indeed involve a space walk. And the point of view we get to see isn't just that of the astronauts, because a probe sent by the ESA five years prior is, long thought to be lost, is somehow still active, taking pictures and recording video - just not transmitting. It, too, holds some interesting secrets.

    To some, Mars the movie may seem like just an experiment, something a film-school grad student knocked out for the fun of it. I would disagree. The movie both looks good and sounds good. The plot, although secondary to the characters and the visuals, is strong and open ended. Unlike most sci-fi stories told by Hollywood, this one offers no neat-and-tidy answers to the problems it brings up. And in this case, the ambiguity meshes very nicely with the conflicting emotions of the humans in the movie. Besides, any movie with Kinky Friedman as the president of the United States can't be all bad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is beyond rotoscoping. The animation is more on the live picture side than on the animated. If you saw WAKING LIFE, then you might be familiar with this style. Thick outlined drawings (or computer enhanced live action pictures) and intense colors. I love animation and when I saw Waking Life I didn't enjoyed it because of the variety of animation styles. At least this time, the whole movie follows the same style. The story is unusual and captivating. You won't be disappointed if you like original plots and original animation. Check out the little details too, they're plenty (eyes in the dark, cigar, hair, clothing items) and the outtakes during the credits. Also, check my 4000+ reviews here: Thanks!
  • Quirky: check. Perhaps not Oscar-worthy acting: check. Creative love story or stories: check. Reluctantly happy and wealthy "sidekick:" check. Swimming pool scene: check. JUMPSUITS: check.

    I love this movie. Maybe some might say my bar isn't set super-high, but Bottle Rocket is my favorite movie, and this comes close to that (I also like science fiction and graphic novels). My boys watched it (9 & 11) because the profanity was mild, and there were only cigars and champagne.

    Don't want to ramble on, but this is supposed to have ten lines. If you just want escape for about 90 minutes, this is the film for you. If you like a more polished movie in terms of acting, story line and production, perhaps you should pass or you'll be really sad.
  • If I would rate this movie only on the visuals and soundtrack, I would give it a whole ten. But incorporating other important aspects of the movie, it is difficult to give such a high rating. The acting sucked! The story itself was very interesting, but the way it unraveled was so immature and predictable. The movie dragged on for almost 2 hours and again, the only reason I actually finished watching it was because of the cool, psychedelic visualizations and an amazing soundtrack. If I would have to, I would recommend this movie to someone who is looking for a laugh, because this movie is fun to ridicule. A similar type of movie but much better acting and story is "Waking Life", in case you need a comparison.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am no stranger to the depths of bad cinema, being a huge fan of movies like Birdemic, Troll 2, Ben & Arthur, The Room etc. but this one really takes the cake. The difference between this and those though? It doesn't have the decency to be entertainingly bad.

    The movie is about a small team of astronauts being sent by NASA in 2015 to investigate if there exists life on Mars, the majority of the film being about their journey and supposedly about the romance between two of the astronauts: Charlie Brownsville, the man with the worst name of all time, and Casey Cook, the only major female character of the film with the most questionable name.

    All of this is brought to life with production values that is borderline Birdemic-ian: Everything is recorded on a really bad green screen, adding in CGI backdrops that make the Eiffel 65 music videos from the 90's look like a PS4 game in comparison and then lazily slapping a Photoshop filter over everything to give the impression of this being animated actors, despite obviously not being so.

    Mix this with acting that is beyond abysmal, a script that thinks quirkiness is more important than plot or meaning, incredibly stupid ideas such as putting a swimming pool in a space ship, and a absolutely disgusting plot twist that could be pulled right out of Foodfight and you would think this would at least be a memorable spectacle if not exactly quality film making. So why isn't this ending up as brilliant moon cheese?

    Well, it's... just boring for the most part.

    After the intro sequence setting up the universe and characters (and foreshadowing the plot twist), very little happens on their journey. Most of the time is spent relaxing, chit chattering, sometimes video-calling NASA or the president or the media, but there is no substance to it. No memorable lines or jokes, no character quirks beyond "we are quirky", not even any real character building showing Charlie and Casey growing closer to each other in any substantial emotional way, and in the end it all comes off as very dull, and it just feels like padding to turn a short film into a feature length one. There is a few times something silly happens, as mentioned they go swimming in a freaking pool in space which is ridiculous, but those moments are so few and far between they don't save it and it all becomes a blur of vague memories

    That is, until the plot twist happens, and oooooooooh boy did that turn this from "incredibly forgettable" into the absolute worst thing ever.


    So in the intro to the movie, we see a few years before the NASA space travel starts, the Russian space program is sending up a satellite to scan Mars for life themselves. One of the workers loading it into the space shuttle is sick and sneezes on the satellite. It then turns out that his snot got mixed with the natural bacteria of the red planet and thus created life.

    Yes, that actually happens.

    To make matters even worse, once Charlie and Casey inevitably falls in love at the end, despite showing no signs of actual chemistry between each other, they decide to spell out their love together. In writing on Mars. Via urine. And wouldn't you know it, their urine actually creates intelligent life on Mars!

    All I can say is, this is near unwatchable. If you want a hipster-y indie comedy you can do better, if you want a animated sci-fi adventure you can do better, if you want romance you can do much much better, and even if all you want is stupid and corny so bad it's good trash the long wait of absolutely nothing happening kills the joy of that too. All in all a very pretentious and unnecessary movie that is too normal yet simultaneously too weird for it's own good, and ends up as barely a movie at all.
  • Geoff Marslett's Mars is immediately intriguing based on its visual style, which may be the closest a film ever came to looking like a graphic novel that I have yet to see. Sin City merged the styles of film noir and graphic novel to create a film that's dark and murky visual scheme gave it new layers of life, but Marslett's directorial debut includes the graininess that would ostensibly be visible in a graphic novel had it come to life before one's eyes. The result is a film that looks very similar to A Scanner Darkly or Waking Life, one of Richard Linklater's uniquely animated, existential films with an animation style that, to my knowledge, hasn't really been exploited since.

    Marslett achieved the unique animation style through the similar rotoscoping technology Linklater put to use with the aforementioned films, though through all the heavy colorization in the characters' features and details, the design doesn't mirror that shiny sleekness Linklater's films did. The film's animation likely comes into play due to Marslett's scope and ambition outweighing the mass of his bank account, and the result is a lot better than one would imagine, though its film school-style narrative and structure comes through when you realize the film doesn't really have any strong insights to cling to.

    More on that later. The film focuses on three astronauts, Charlie (Mark Duplass), a cocky, washed-up man who relishes in his great spacewalk victory years ago, Casey (Zoe Simpson), a New Zealand doctor who is about to fulfill her dream of being the first woman on Mars, and Hank (Paul Gordon), the gang's leader, who seems like he's forever wallowing in a cloud of bong exhaust with his slow, sometimes slurry, manner of speech, who are embarking on a trip to Mars. The three are constantly monitored by their boss Shep (Howe Gelb) at Mission Control, who instructs Hank to go against the grain numerous times without informing his crewmates, in addition to a group of Television journalists. All eyes are on these three brave souls and their uncertain futures as they embark on being the first astronauts to set foot on the red planet.

    Once your eyes have feasted on Marslett's beautiful and layered animation, in addition to embracing the hilarious sarcasm of Duplass and the listlessness of Gordon, Mars devolves into a romantic story, perhaps questioning "is there really love on Mars?" (read that twice, if need be). Marslett strays away from any kind of political or social commentary here, and unfortunately, that feels a bit like a copout with this film, as Marslett has gone all this way, literally out of this world, to basically craft a cutesy, hipster romance on another planet. Sure there's evident romanticism, and sure, Duplass and Simpson strike an amiable chemistry, but when the visuals are this unique, the plot is this significant, and the characters are deemed so important, it seems kind of elementary to confine them to a basic romance plot when they're Mars of all places.

    Mars gets a lot of creativity points in its visual scheme, and it's pleasantly short at barely eighty minutes, making this expedition a brief and marginally satisfying one overall. The problem this film - which is essentially a mumblecore film set in space - is that because it's so minimalist in plot, the screenplay must immediately rely on characters, themes, and dialog in order to be successful, and instead of soaring to new heights, like Marslett does with the visuals and the narrative, he keeps everything relatively grounded. The result is sweet, cheerful, but kind of forgettable.

    Starring: Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson, Hank Gordon, and Howe Gelb. Directed by: Geoff Marslett.