Monday, April 11, 2011

Mars Needs Moms

‘Mars Needs Moms’ is a decent sci-fi adventure for kids that is hindered by a convoluted mythology and the use of Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture technology and too life-like characters that we seems too lifeless.

Mars Needs Moms is brought to life via the technical wizardry of the motion-capture technology championed by filmmaker Robert Zemeckis. Although Zemeckis sat in the director’s chair for his previous mo-cap features (The Polar ExpressBeowulfA Christmas Carol), with Mars he served only as producer, and handed over the reins to animation specialist Simon Wells (The Prince of Egypt). Overall, Mars Needs Moms is a decent family-friendly sci-fi adventure that suffers partly from a muddled alien mythology -- but is debilitated by the same film making technology meant to enhance its visually imaginative setting and characters.

The film revolves around nine-year-old Milo (played by Seth Green, but voiced by child actor Seth Dusky). He’s just your average pre-pubescent kid, more interested in watching gory zombie movies than doing chores or eating his broccoli at dinner. When Milo’s misbehavior prompts his mother (Joan Cusack) to punish him with an early bedtime, the kid throws an “I wish I didn’t have a mother!” line in her face. She tears up, Milo stews in bed, and eventually he gets up to apologize. When Milo opens his mother’s bedroom, he’s quite shocked to find her literally being kidnapped by Martians -- and then, while attempting to chase down and rescue his mom, being accidentally dragged along on the ride to the red planet. Once there, Milo is befriended by the space traveler Gribble (Dan Fogler), a raucous man-child whose decades-long absence from Earth has left him trapped in the cultural mindset of the 1980s.

Initially Gribble is more interested in making Milo his new “party bro”  than helping him rescue his mom, but eventually the two form a genuine bond and Fogler’s character comes clean about the truth behind his presence on Mars. Gribble and Milo thereafter team up with the rebellious Martian Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) to save his mother from being used to fulfill the heartless plans of the Martian’s leader -- a prune-faced and elderly being referred to as the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling).

Mars is a world which badly needs mothers, it turns out. It's a female-run planet (shouldn't that be Venus then?) where babies simply pop out of the ground in a kind of immaculate test-tube conception. We don't see any male martians, they are referred to once in the film then forgotten about. "The boys are sent below, where they are raised by the hairy tribe guys". There are no fathers. They don't need fathers. No one needs fathers.

There's a section in the film where family is discussed & the writers go to some quite tortuous lengths to not mention the words 'man' or 'father' anywhere. Keep an eye out for it if you end up watching it. When Milo is asked by a martian what parents are, he replies 'you know, people like my mom, who look after kids like me'.

What kind of message is this for little boys, like the one in this film, & the ones watching this film, who after all must grow up to BE fathers? Here's the message:

You are not needed. A father's role is sperm donor & ATM machine. The miracle of life is a exclusively female domain.

This is a misandric movie because there are no normal, ordinary men in it, only Gribble, a fat, creepy overgrown child (subtext: what little boys will grow up to be if they don't change their ways & get with the feminist program) & Milo's unreliable, absent father, on screen for literally seconds. Milo's future is laid out for us along these two roads.

The female characters, on the other hand, are kick-ass & cooooool... with Ki, the strong, independent, heroic graffiti artist rebel who rescues Milo & saves the day. There are practically no other speaking roles except for her & the mother, who is wholly good. Flawless, in fact. She doesn't have to learn or change or grow, there is no lesson for her. I guess mothers are the target audience for children's films, after all they're the ones that are going to be choosing which films their children see. So i suppose it makes good business sense to pander to their egos.

Overall, though, Mars Needs Moms is actually a decent film for kids, who are likely to be more forgiving of its shortcomings. The film has enough in the way of imaginative visuals and thoughtful themes to tide over parents as well, and is thankfully nowhere near as obnoxious or painful to sit through as it might have been.


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