Summary: The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.
**There will be minor spoilers ahead. Just a head’s up.
The Cast and characters. I think the characters aren’t very well written so I only wanted to talk about the actors but I unfortunately have to go into the characters too.
Gary Oldman as Nathaniel Shepherd. He is the CEO of the program that wants to colonize Mars. That’s all that really matters because that’s pretty much his role in this film. Gary Oldman is always a good actor and I think he’s way too good for this movie. He gives this pretentious speech at the beginning and he gets to see his idea come to fruition but when he finds out one of his astronauts was pregnant, he keeps it a secret because the PR would be terrible. This character yells a lot, once Gardner comes to earth and runs off, and he never stops yelling. He doesn’t even want Gardner to be known to the world because it would ruin the company, or whatever. He would make some weird comments at the beginning that definitely put his storyline in the “completed” pile for me because I knew everything that was going to happen. But Oldman is good of course.
Asa Butterfield as Gardner Elliot. He is very intelligent and inquisitive, his social skills are low since he’s only ever met 14 people in his entire life due to him being raised on Mars. He chats with a girl from earth and it’s clear that they at least like each other. He has a robot tutor who he ends up hacking into to find out more about his parents. He discovers some info about his mother and his father and he wants to go to earth to try to find his father. He finally gets his chance to go to earth (after some surgeries to help his body adapt to Earth’s gravity), he gets a little ahead of himself and goes to find Tulsa so she can help him on his road trip. Gardner is the “fish out of water” character in that he knows nothing about Earth, so he has to watch clips from old movies about “courting”, or that he gets scared at seeing a person on a horse. But his character is harmless in that he’s a sweet kid. He’s a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. Asa Butterfield is fine in this role, though he can’t seem to catch a break in being in a good movie… but he’s a good actor, I honestly forget the kid is British, but he does the whole wide-eyed and emotional thing pretty well.
Carla Gugino as Kendra Wyndham. An astronaut and mother figure to Gardner. She tries to appeal to Nathaniel and other people involved that Gardner should get the chance to go to earth. Kendra cares about him, it’s easy to tell that while she didn’t want kids, Gardner is that kid she didn’t know she wanted. Her role after leaving Mars is to run around with Nathaniel, call him out on any of his bull and to try to get Gardner back as he might be in danger. That’s it really. She also makes a weird choice at the end of the movie. I mean, it was for a good reason, but not really for her anyway. Carla Gugino is fine, she’s a good actress too but her character is underwritten, especially as the movie goes on.
Britt Robertson as Tulsa. She is a “street smart” girl who has been shuffled around from foster home to foster home. She has a shield up and can be very defensive. When talking to Gardner in the chat room, she’s a bit more open, but we get a little glimpse of her life and while it doesn’t seem that bad, she’s unhappy. So when Gardner comes, she’s upset with him for not talking to her (ya know during the 6 or 7 months that he traveled from Mars to Earth) and then he talks her into going with him on the road trip to find his father. She’s still a bit stand offish at first but warms up to him. We only get a glimpse into her life once, and like I said it didn’t seem that bad and other times she just talks about it and I’m like, girl get over yourself. Britt Robertson can play this kind of role very well, I’ve seen her do it before, it’s her “thing”, so she’s fine too.
Main Romance Chemistry. I didn’t really care about Tulsa and Gardner as a couple but they were cute when it felt organically cute. I thought the actors had chemistry and that the idea behind it was fine. Anytime they were on-screen, it did seem that Gardner had this cute crush on her and at first, she was a bit weird about it considering it did take some time for Gardner to get to earth, so she thought he “ghosted” her but as she loosened up, it got cute. I know I said “cute” like 50 million times but it is, it’s just cute.
The Idea. I think this movie was mostly marketed as a romance but I don’t think that should have been the focus. It tries to make it seem like it’s not, by having Gardner and Tulsa go on an adventure to find his father, but they focus a lot more on the romance which puts a lot of the other story lines on the back burner. I think if they would have stuck to the idea of Gardner being the “fish out of water” and not so much on only having Nathaniel and Kendra’s character chasing after him to save him, and him getting closer to this girl, it might have worked better. Since Gardner was supposed to have been born on Earth, they should have instead, let him go, after his surgeries of course, and then let him try to be a normal teenager, where he could meet up with Tulsa (if we kept the idea of them chatting online) and then go from there. So the idea skeleton is there, I just think they focused on the wrong parts.
The Characters. You could replace each character with cardboard cutouts of certain clichés. You have Gardner who is a fish out of water, but also the “sickly” boy, you have Tulsa who is the hardened girl whose been lied to by everyone and is defensive. There’s Nathaniel Shepard who yells a lot and is trying to save Gardner and Kendra who raised Gardner on Mars and runs around with Nathaniel to find him while looking concerned the entire time. I don’t think any of them are that interesting, the script just did not do them any favors. They could have been those cliches with just a bit more added in. I mean, once Tulsa got over herself, she became much more likable and I think if they would have just made her a regular person instead of trying to make her be such an “intense” person she wouldn’t have felt so… cliché lol. Same with Gardner, there’s only so much to be done with him considering his environment but for him to be the lead, I just didn’t care when I was supposed to.
The Story. Basically, Gardner was born on Mars because his mom was stupid…I mean don’t astronauts go through all sorts of training and health inspections? How would she even be allowed to go on this space mission being pregnant? There was no way that she was able to hide that even if she wasn’t showing so because of her being an idiot, she gives birth and dies. Spoilers. But you probably don’t care. So he basically grows up on this planet and his health system, his bones and everything is different compared to him growing up on earth. So of course he wants to see Earth, but I think it’s mainly because of the girl he’s talking too and he wants to find his father. So it’s a romance, with this girl he’s been chatting with, but also a road trip to find his father. It’s the whole “star crossed lovers” thing in a way. Oh and also, I’m not sure when this is supposed to take place but the technology is a bit advanced and it’s not really explained. It’s just there. There is a twist with his father and I kind of suspected it but it still comes out of nowhere and I rolled my eyes when it was revealed.
Stupid Choices. Characters make way too many stupid choices. First, like I said, with Gardner’s mom… YOU’RE PREGNANT! Why would you go on this expedition? Why didn’t any doctors find this out beforehand, especially if it wasn’t a pre-planned experiment. How exactly did Gardner find Tulsa? On what website? How did he know what website allows chatting when he doesn’t even know what a horse is? Yes, he jumped at seeing a horse… why? That’s stupid. Then why did Kendra offer what she offered at the end of the movie? Just so Tulsa and Gardner could end up being together at the end? We literally never saw her and Tulsa really interact.
No Attachment/Boring. This movie is so slow and boring. I checked the time a lot while watching it and it felt long even though it’s not really long. It’s kind of unfortunate that there’s just no character to really connect with. Some of them may be relatable in some way but I don’t think the writing makes them interesting, and even if they get a bit of interesting development, it pulls back.
Cheesy. Oh my gosh this movie is so cheesy and lame. It tries to make you feel emotions, especially towards the end, but that didn’t work. It really tries to hit all of those points that a romance would but I don’t think they all land, it tries to nail in the factor about family and while I get it, it didn’t really feel earned. The twist especially was cheesy and definitely wasn’t earned. If there were some hints at the beginning, or a bit more in there, or the characters involved were handled better, that part might have landed better but it just came off really lame.
Overall, I don’t dislike this movie, but I do think it tried to hard to be too many things and it didn’t quite make it. It’s not a bad watch, but I mean it’s not good either. The romance is underdeveloped, as are the characters. The story is lame and cliché and it seems like they tried to hard to be different but they didn’t account for some stupid choices made by characters that don’t add up in any way. It’s super cheesy and there’s no way around that unfortunately. However, I think the acting is good, I think the actors did the best with what they had which wasn’t much. I thought the music was sweet and whimsical at times and the film looks great, it was very bright and eye-catching. The moments of humor were also done pretty well and there are some pretty good character moments but there’s just not enough of it.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
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