‘The Last Days on Mars’ literally wastes its terrific actors

Olivia Williams is magnificently pissed-off in "The Last Days on Mars." Credit: Magnolia Pictures
Olivia Williams is magnificently pissed-off in “The Last Days on Mars.”
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

‘The Last Days on Mars’
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

2013 has been illuminating for outside-the-box sci-fi. “Gravity” and the tinier “Europa Report” — filmed entirely in a warehouse in Brooklyn — stretched the boundaries of the genre, giving us the illusion of the new while playing with the familiar. And yet, in the face of so much quality, a purely schlocky number like “The Last Days of Mars” should be perversely welcome. There is nothing remotely new about this low budget English-Irish production. It’s a warmed-over retro B-movie that mashes the space and horror film once again into one. It boasts an impressive name cast, some giving it their all, some phoning it in.

And yet even with its modest ambitions it’s still not enough. Liev Schreiber — he’s one phoning it in — plays one of the crew members on a six month mission to Mars. Much like the cop who eats it on the day before retirement, it’s in the last several hours of their stint that the crew is besieged by a deadly virus that kills its prey, then turns them into zombies. Worse, it’s not even the good George A. Romero kind; it’s the crappy, fast, aggressive kind.

Every last bit of “The Last Days on Mars” is reheated. Even the big band song that eccentrically plays over the opening credits is a callback to the country music interlude from James Cameron’s “The Abyss.” (To say nothing of the same shtick in “Gravity.”) One character’s death seems inventive — until you realize nearly the same thing happened in Brian De Palma’s alternately masterful and dreadful “Mission to Mars.” Rehashing is not in itself a crime, and there’s a stretch, when the virus first breaks loose, that’s genuinely hairy and nail-biting. Perhaps it’s not ideal that one of the most likable characters eats it early, but that does raise the stakes. No one (or at least no good actor) is safe.

And there are some great actors. Tom Cullen — one half of the excellent gay romance “Weekend” — and Romola Garari bring unusual, maybe even undeserved, pathos to stock characters. Meanwhile Elias Koteas does his worldweary thing, and Olivia Williams further enforces the theory, as demonstrated in “The Ghost Writer” and “Hyde Park On Hudson,” that there’s no one right now more electric at playing royally pissed-off. Then again, there’s a foundational issue: this is a horror in which everyone gets picked off one by one. When your only real attribute is the terrific actors, that only means the quality shrinks with every kill, leaving nothing much at all.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.