Director: Geoff Marslett
Cast: Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson, Paul Gordon, Howe Gelb, Liza Weil
Watch Geoff Marslett’s Mars online: Distrify / VHX / Vimeo
Straight-to-VOD Thursday: From direct-to-iTunes indies to naff bargain bucket sequels, we look at films only available on VOD in the UK.
In 2010, Mars beamed into the London Film Festival, a successful landing that found a warm welcome among the local humans. Then, Geoff Marslett’s delightful film disappeared off the face of the Earth for four years with no sign of a UK release. Until now – you can watch Geoff Marslett’s Mars online in the UK right here.
Watching rotoscope animation always has an other-worldly feel to it. Here, Geoff Marslett uses the technology to literally take us to the surface of the red planet next door. After the disappointment of Beagle II – a space probe that got dropped, sneezed on, and shipped off to our neighbour without Earth ever hearing back – NASA are launching the first manned mission to Mars. Along with their baby cousin, the ESA, they’re on the lookout for intelligent life in the universe. Because there certainly isn’t any on Earth. (Sorry, Brian Cox.)
Charlie Brownville (Duplass) is an astronaut. He’s also a loser. He used to be famous for some space thing or another. Now he’s expendable: a monkey in a jumpsuit. A jumpsuit with rhinestones on it. You can’t blame him for wanting to look classy: the mission is part-funded by a TV show, whose dimwit presenters beam up vacuous smiles and airhead questions every 48 hours.
Also on board are Captain Hank Morrison (Gordon) and Dr Casey Cook (Simpson). They’re real astronauts. She’s a scientist too. Fighting off his inferiority complex, Charlie tries to stay sane in a mission plagued by a cigar-chomping President (a hilarious Kinky Friedman), a hungover mission controller, and a gaggle of other retards. The only smart one is artificially intelligent robot ART. And even he has weird trippy robot dreams (displaying equations like “2 > 1” next to pixels shaped like cows).
If it all sounds odd, that’s because it is – and then some. Balancing oddball imagination with a deadpan delivery, Marslett’s script is a stellar burst of silliness. It’s a slacker comedy set in space. Complete with really cute blue and green aliens.
But there are brains behind the barminess. Mars raises thoughtful questions about existence, snot and extra-terrestrial romance, but always without any danger of straying into serious 2001 territory. Kubrick, this ain’t. But funny, it sure as hell is. And visually stunning too, with its rotoscope landscapes and disjointed cartoon humans bobbing around in space not achieving anything.
A gentle satire of man’s scientific ambition, Mars soars into black depths to find intelligent life – and then boldly shows that the search is little more than a profound failure. A unique and charming space oddity.