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Back to Mars: Fall in love with a Martian guy

"Back to Mars" had an interesting premise, but it was ruined by a shoddy, cliched script

By Zheng toPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

Instead of telling the coming-of-age story of earth's first extraterrestrial child, the film focuses on a regular road trip by a pair of teenagers who quickly grow out of their initial estranged relationship and drive a variety of stolen cars through the American West (circa 2034). "Back to Mars" could have gone in a lot of interesting directions, but it stuck to the teen movie formula, especially as it got more and more fake by the end. While the first half of the film is reminiscent of the Martian (though nowhere near as much), the final story is closer to a teen cancer movie like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (and nowhere near as much). Back to Mars doesn't seem to know where it stands. The film mistakenly skips through the backstory of alien exploration and how The Martian orphan Gardner Elliott (Asa Butterfield) grows up with scientists and astronauts. Why was Gardner orphaned? His mother, Sarah (Janet Montgomery), was the mission commander of the first Mars colonization mission. But two months into her interstellar journey, she discovered she was pregnant. On Mars she gave birth and died soon after. Gardner is left alone with a robot and a scientist named Kendra (Kara Kino) who acts as his surrogate mother. Most of the action takes place in 2034: the teenage Gardner wants to return to Earth. Aside from his natural curiosity about the planet where other people were born, he's eager to make the trip for two specific reasons: he's eager to find his father, and he's eager to meet Tulsa (Britt Robertson), the tough, lonely, savvy Earth girl he's video-chatting with. Doctors are divided over whether Gardner could have survived earth's different air pressure and gravity than Mars. Nathaniel Sheppard (Gary Oldman), the former director of the Mars Colonization Project, opposes Mars Boy's return to Earth, but he no longer has the authority to make a decision. Gardner visited Earth for the first time after his bones were surgically strengthened. Much of "Back to Mars" focuses on Gardner and Tulsa's relationship as they go on a road trip to find his dad. Soon after Gardner escaped custody, they were on the run together. Short of money, they had to barter and even steal. They quickly fell in love with each other (the long video chats that preceded them should have been a catalyst), and Tulsa was desperate to help Gardner fulfill his wishes after his health problems. Speaking of video chat...... This is one of "Back to Mars" 's biggest scientific missteps. There are many mishaps, but this one is the most egregious, and easy to spot, because communication problems between Earth and Mars are a big part of "The Martian." The radio waves travel at the speed of light, and the time difference between Earth and Mars is about four to 24 minutes (depending on the relative positions of the two planets). Communication cannot be instantaneous: in fact, two-way interactions can have a delay of at least eight minutes between sending and receiving. So every conversation between NASA and the astronauts in Back to Mars (not to mention Gardner's webchat with Tulsa) is pure fantasy. It's a sign that these writers are either scientific idiots or just don't want to use their brains to incorporate reality into their scripts. The movie does have some touching moments, but they're too small. There are some unwieldy fun elements (seemingly borrowed from the long-forgotten 1999 film "Love in Time") and a romantic romance. Although all these are wonderful, they still cannot change the fact that the film has a small structure and low intention. Road movies and teen cancer movies are so plentiful these days that stories about orphans on Mars are rare. Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson, the two leads, give good performances: they both find the heart of their characters and deliver them. Their chemistry is intermittent due to time constraints, but it's enough to convince us of the sincerity and depth of their love. A love story like this takes time and dedication, and "Back to Mars" is more than that because it does both well. If there was a letdown in the cast, it was Gary Oldman, who started well but ended up overacting and superficial.

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