Monday 19 March 2018

Movies: Mars needs moms **


Paul Whitington

For some years now, Robert Zemeckis has been obsessed with mining the potential of the technique known as motion capture, in which the movement and expressions of actors are transferred to a digital model and rendered as animations.

Very exciting stuff it is too, I'm sure, but the problem is it isn't very nice to look at. For while motion capture gives you impressively realistic character movement, it also gives you waxy, lifeless faces that look like they've been specially prepared for the screen by a mortician. It's the principal failing of this big-budget Disney animation, which was produced by Mr Zemeckis.

Seth Green 'stars', as it were, as Milo, a truculent and disobedient but basically decent middle-American boy who's in constant conflict with his no-nonsense mom (Joan Cusack). Milo has been sent to his room one night for feeding his broccoli to the cat (oldest trick in the book) when he hears strange noises emanating from his mother's room. He arrives in time to see her being spirited out of the window by aliens from another planet -- Mars, to be precise. He chases after them, and manages to sneak aboard their spaceship. Up on Mars, the natives have forgotten how to bring up children, and the most impressive earth mothers are being stolen so their brains can be used to program robot nannies. When Milo realises what's happening, he sets out to save his mom with the help of a stranded human called Gribble.

All of this is perfectly acceptable, and even modestly entertaining after a fashion. The landscapes and subterranean recesses of the red planet are very nicely rendered, and there's some decent voice work, from Cusack in particular.

But the film's humour doesn't quite come off, the Gribble character is irritating rather than endearing, and none of the human characters manage to break free of the deadening motion-capture rictus that afflicts their faces.

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