Mars Express Provides a Grim Look into Humanity’s Future | Review

Cinelinx’s resident animation lover Becky went to see the French film Mars Express to see what it’s all about.

GKIDs has a great reputation for bringing international animated films to the theater, so when it was announced they had acquired the North American rights for Mars Express, my curiosity was piqued.

Mars Express
Directed By: Jérémie Périn
Written By: Jérémie Périn and Laurent Sarfati
Starring: Léa Drucker, Mathieu Amalric, Daniel Njo Lobé, Marie Bouvet
Release Date: May 3, 2024 (North America)

Mars Express was originally released in 2023 in France and was written and directed by Jérémie Périn. The film is in French but GKIDs released it with an English dub and that is the version I saw in theaters. The story is set in the early 23rd century and follows private investigator Aline Ruby and her partner Carlos Rivera as they track down a student who has apparently “jail broken” a robot, a serious offense. However, the more they dig into the case, the more they discover there’s something much bigger at work, and the ramifications for humanity will be staggering.

I love and adore this specific film genre, the one where humans and robots live side by side in a flashy but ultimately grim future. Mars Express fits right in with the likes of Blade Runner, Ex Machina, and I, Robot, just to name a few. As the title implies, the bulk of the action takes place on Mars, though it bears little resemblance to the barren wasteland of our time. In fact, it’s heavily implied that living on Mars is far better than living on Earth.

Just from a visual standpoint, Mars Express is a beautiful film. The shots of the titular “Mars Express” traveling from Earth to the Red Planet are some of my favorite in the entire film. One thing the filmmakers excelled with is they do a lot of showing without telling. We’re never told, for example, how the domes work on the surface of Mars, we just see that they do, and that is enough.

It’s interesting to note that the film is, in part, a giant example of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” For all the innovative technologies glimpsed throughout the story, for all that humans have colonized the Moon, Mars and beyond, they’re still the same greedy, prejudiced beings they always have been. That might explain why the robot side of the story plays out the way it does. Humans, in this story, have reached the level where they truly believe they control everything and were way past due for a reality check.

The robots is actually where Mars Express really comes together. I didn’t quite understand the story until I realized that this wasn’t about the humans at all; it was about the robots. Looking back at the story from their perspective, every decision, every twist, makes total sense.

Mars Express is definitely not for everyone, but it is worth seeing if you’re willing to give it a try. There are some grim portents about what humanity could become, but also glimpses of something bright and amazing that still could be made from the world, from existence.

Mars Express
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Becky O'Brien
Armed with a PhD. in Musicology, Becky loves to spend their time watching movies and playing video games, and listening to the soundtracks of both whenever they have the time. Can usually be seen writing for Cinelinx though they also do a bit of work for Screen Age Wasteland too. Their favorite superheroes are Batwoman and Spider-Gwen.
mars-express-provides-a-grim-look-into-humanitys-future-reviewWhile not for everyone, Mars Express is a thought provoking animated film that shows how humans remain unchanged even when they've reached to the stars. It's a grim story, though one with a spark of hope.