What Should I Watch?: ‘The Last Days on Mars’ (2013)



Image via Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

It’s always perplexing to watch a film that’s been quite negatively panned by critics and film watchers alike and coming out with a positive impression. It makes you think – what was wrong with that?

2013 science-fiction horror film The Last Day on Mars is the feature directorial debut for Ruairi Robinson. The film finds Liev Schreiber, best known as the no-nonsense Ray Donovan in the series of the same name, playing Vincent Campbell, a mission specialist stationed with an eight man crew of explorers and scientists on Mars. The team is soon to be relieved of a six-month expedition, until one crew member discovers bacterial life form in the soil.



The film is a sci-fi/horror mash-up in the vein of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) and Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon (1997). There are also certain elements and themes influenced by John Carpenters The Thing (1982). It’s the type of plot that has been mimicked numerous times over the years, but while the quality of film tackling this narrative varies, there never seems to be a lack of filmmakers wanting to tackle their version.

Image via Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

As mentioned, The Last Days on Mars was generally panned, resulting in a minuscule gross compared to its $US10 million budget. Most of the criticism was generated from certain expectations viewers had for the film, which isn’t generally how film analysis should be approached.

This writer had no preconceived expectations or thoughts as to how the film should unfold. The picture played out as advertised: an entertaining and thrilling mix of sci-fi and horror. Yes, some characters, who are supposed to be intelligent scientists and explorers, make cliché horror decisions that only end in death (think: the biologist character in Prometheus), and yes, the ‘creatures’ that attack the crew have been overdone to death in film and television, but there was never a moment of boredom from this end.

As is the case with entertainment, The Last Days of Mars is a film that comes down to taste and just what expectations you carry into it. If you’re looking for a film that provides highly emotional, thought-provoking moments, you won’t find it here, but if you’re after a fun, and somewhat silly, sci-fi flick, you may come out with the same reaction as this writer – entertained.