New frontiers are at a premium, whether you’re in the space-travel or movie-making biz. Seemingly inspired by that challenge, first-time writer/director Geoff Marslett came up with Mars, an inter-planetary indie that takes place in a world—and a format—of his invention. Using a combination of hand-drawn, 3-D, and rotoscope animation to tell his story of an unlikely trio’s voyage to Mars in 2015, Marslett struck upon a unique look and tone, spacey, soothing, and strange. A cowboy (Kinky Friedman) is president, and the space program is in disarray when a hot scientist Casey (Zoe Simpson), faded astronaut Charlie (Mark Duplass), and bored billionaire Hank (Paul Gordon) are chosen to beat out the Euros in the race to get to Mars. The mission is being run by a sociopath and covered by an MTV-like program with two hipster drone hosts, which means the trio’s downtime rap sessions and the grudging romantic developments between Casey and Hank are frequently interrupted by insipid transmissions from Earth. Not one but two deadpan space dudes and Howe Gelb’s Peanuts-at-the-piano-bar score take the edge off what is already a memorably odd, mellow affair.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 1, 2010