This movie comes close to having it all, but falls short when it comes to a not-so-minor detail: the story. I love science fiction of course—and have a particular interest in Mars—so I had to see this movie and hope for the best, after so many let downs.
The Last Days on Mars starts out well enough with solid actors, interesting characters, and adequate special effects. I’ve seen other reviews refer to this as “low budget”, but it doesn’t have that feel. Many aspects of this film are very well done, including the sets, space sequences, and surface shots (filmed in Jordan).
Unfortunately the initial promise gives way to disappointment as the film quickly morphs into a bad horror movie. Less than a day before the Mars exploration team is set to begin their return journey to Earth, one of them is infected by a native bacterium that quickly spreads, turning them into violent, skeleton-faced zombies (yeah, really). The consensus review on Rotten Tomatoes is spot on: “Neither intelligent enough to work as thought-provoking sci-fi nor trashy enough to provide B-movie thrills, The Last Days on Mars proves as cinematically barren as the titular planet.” Once again, Mars simply ends up being the setting for a bad horror film.
For me the bigger disappointment, and one not likely to be noted by mainstream movie critics, is that this film does nothing to advance interest in Mars settlement and exploration. The Last Days on Mars is quite a departure from the hopeful future portrayed in years gone by, and symptomatic of much of what’s wrong with science fiction today.