Release Date: February 3, 2017
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Allan Loeb, Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis
Cast: Gary Oldman, Janet Montgomery, Trey Tucker, Scott Takeda, Adande ‘Swonzie’ Thorne, Sarah Minnich, Ryan Jason Cook, BD Wong, Lauren Myers, Morse Bicknell, Beth Bailey, Asa Butterfield, Peter Chelsom, Carla Gugino, William Sterchi, Anthony Jarvis, Britt Robertson, Zacciah Hanson, Jesse Romero, Tim D. Janis, Kristen Rakes, Aurora Antonio, Bruce McIntosh, Lora Martinez-Cunningham
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 120 minutes
Production Company: Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF), STX Entertainment, Southpaw Entertainment
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance
Who knows if we’ll ever make it to Mars. I’m not even sure I’d want to go if the opportunity presented itself. Though being alive if we ever did would be so euphoric. That term is thrown around throughout the film to describe the feeling of new beginnings. It fits the filled with fun high spirited moments, whether the main character Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is making new discoveries or experiencing the tingly feeling down below when he meets his crush Tulsa (Britt Robinson) for the first time. The dynamic between the pair is adorable, while simultaneously being a bit corny, but it works to shorten the space between the two.
One aspect that you’ll enjoy is the notion of being a product of your environment. We all are, and this defines every living being until we pass away. So to see Gardner adapting to earth when he finally touches down was the highlight of the entire film. The casting here was spot on perfect. Asa Butterfield already looks like the model of innocence. So to put him in a role of a man, so to speak, being born yesterday was a homerun. The guy was born on Mars and was raised by scientists. While he has all the book smarts, his interactions with normal human life are nonexistent. His mannerisms and dialogue towards earthlings was laugh out loud funny, and is by far the best parts of the runtime. It was all genuine and played itself out exactly how you would imagine it would if a Martian came to earth.
Everything around it falls short of anything realistic in the real world. The timeline takes place in the new future of 2034. So you can only assume there will be some technological advancements that we don’t possesses today that move the story forward. But there are still some tropes that can’t be ignored, bringing the film down to a childish Nickelodeon, Disney like production. That would be fine if it was marketed to children, but from the outside looking in, it seemed the level of activity would have some maturity to back it up. So, excuse me if I’m annoyed by some characters that can easily infiltrate or escape massive government secured facilities or run around the country stealing cars as easy as snatching ketchup packets from condiment dispensers; all while Tulsa is in high school with money falling from the sky for convenience. I loved Tulsa’s character, with her always speaking her mind and not giving up on the horrible life she was dealt, but I still wanted her to be wiser in her decision-making.
It wouldn’t be too bad if the film started out with a softer tone, but it comes across so serious like we’re headed to the Oscars. Within the first twenty minutes it was hard to care about anything, even when life itself for a few was on the line. All things came together when Gardner came to this planet, but it took a little long for him to do so. Though like I said earlier, the relationship between the two leads is the best part, their objective wasn’t making much sense. I just wanted them to stick to a plan and stop veering off to the side wasting time. It doesn’t matter if the characters are young or old with little experience of anything, but there’s no responsibility taken from anyone around. It all plays out like a cheap adventure that asks for your tears, but doesn’t come remotely close to deserving them.
Peter Chelsom (Serendipity) is the director behind the camera, and I’m not familiar at all with his previous work. He didn’t direct a bad film here, but it is not anything to rave about either. Driving home I couldn’t help but to think about how it would’ve turned out with a different hand controlling the knobs, because the concept is great. The film just didn’t know what audience it wanted to attract. While some moments you have adult themes with real issues of morality that we all face, other times I was rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of the plot, or the fact that some groups dang near pulled spaceships out of their back pocket for emergencies. One character flew into space as easy as buying a movie ticket at the theater, which is one reason this may not be for you.