Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"The Last Days on Mars": a "B-movie" sci-fi film that pretends seriousness; how about a movie set on Titan?

The Last Days on Mars”, by Ruairi Robinson, presents us with an international crew on the first manned mission to Mars, getting ready to return to Earth, when a crewmember suddenly makes the most important discovery in human history.

The trouble is that it is a deadly discovery. That makes this a big “B movie” with plenty of corporate sponsorship, especially from the UK and Ireland. It seems that some colorful rocks in a cave harbor an aggressive bacteria, which, when it infects a human, turns the human into an aggressive, if disfigured, zombie.  That’s all for entertainment purposes. True, there is medically valuable stuff, like antibiotic resistance. The film is based on a short story by Sydney J. Bounds.

Liev Schreiber plays the commander, so to speak, and he may face an existential question about his own return to Earth.  Could he infect the world and destroy it?   

The film has some breathtaking scenery of Mars (including a haboob), although not better than that in “Mission to Mars” or “Red Planet” or particularly John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars” which offers a train and an urban settlement, or even the first “Total Recall” film.  The Mars scenery was set up in Jordan. 
The story is more claustrophobic than even of these larger predecessors, and reminds one a bit of “Europa Report” and even “Moon”, but either of those films is really more suspenseful.
Magnet’s official site for the film is here.  The film is also distributed by Focus Features, and was made with Universal Pictures, Qwerty Films, Fantastic Films, and Prescience.  

I saw the film at Landmark E Street in Washington DC this evening before a small crowd, but the theater was overrun with a private sneak preview of “American Hustle”.  
So far, I am not aware of a major science fiction story set on Titan (except the animated “Titan A.E.” (2000)).   J have a screenplay treatment and script for a proposed movie “69 Minutes to Titan”, with the title referring to how long it might take light (or an email or Facebook post) to get to the moon of Saturn if in the right orbital relation to earth.  The story is eclectic and have worked with two versions, with only the “tamer” one online.  I have gotten a couple phone calls about it.  But it needs some real work to put in the “risky business” with a few characters (one in particular) that makes the story really work.  One concept, that appears in a few scripts of mine, is that “angels” are using “Titan” as a staging area for a possible “second coming”.  Maybe ten percent of the movie takes place on Titan (or enroute) although there are a lot of “direct online” holographic images in the story.  The script does need reconciliation work.  I just looked at it again tonight (after a long hiatus to forget some of it).  It dates to early 2005, shortly after Cassini Huygens landed. 

I have another script called "Prescience". 

For today’s short film, see “Jonathan and Dwayne: A Story About Love” (10 min, 2013) on my GLBT blog today.  

Pictures: from National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian, in Washington DC.  

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