Try as he may, Robert Zemekis cannot find his way out of the uncanny valley — that deep gorge where his other forays into motion-capture like The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol have fallen. For those who are unaware of what this valley is, look at the “human” faces in any of those films and see if they don’t creep you out. Apparently, if the face is not human — a creature, alien, monster — then things are fine because we relegate the inconsistencies in muscle ticks and facial nuances to something more cartoonish. However, when the filmmakers want a person to look like a real person, there is always something off about them, something they have been unable to perfect. Though they look real, they don’t move like we expect them to; the little twitches, the subtleties — it’s like they were injected with too much Botox. It doesn’t help that in Mars needs Moms, the on screen representations were modeled after the actors who lent them their movement and voices. I spent the beginning of the film thinking “Boy, that looks an awful lot like Joan Cusack, but in a disturbing way.” If he has not yet, I wonder why Zemekis, who seems determined to conquer this motion-capture way of making films, hasn’t joined forces with James Cameron or Peter Jackson or stolen some of their notes. Not that I approve of this style of filmmaking nor am I looking forward to seeing their next attempt (that goes for you too, Lucas), but if they’re gonna do it, then they should work together and get us there faster. That all said, I was not as bothered by the weirdness of the people in this film as I usually am and, in fact, found myself halfway through not caring about it at all and even, dare I say, enjoying the film.
Nine year old, Milo (Seth Green) finds out just how much he needs his mom (Joan Cusack) when Martians, who plan on taking her memories and mental capacities to power their nanny-bots, kidnap her. Milo hitches a ride on the space ship and finds a friend in the only other human on Mars, Gribble (Dan Fogler). There, with the help of a rebel female Martian, Ki (Elizabeth Harnois) they plan a way to get back Milo’s mom and get back home.
The Martians pick out Milo’s mom out of all the other mothers they’ve scanned because she is the rarest of creatures on earth — a mother whose son obeys her. However, if they would have only continued watching just a little longer, they would have seen that Milo does not obey his mother, at least not without a fight. But that’s of course, because he needs to have some sort of story arc; he can’t be perfect from the beginning, people! He has to have somewhere to grow.
The Martian young pop up out of the ground like potatoes or groundhogs, which is a nice way to skirt any of the questions the children in the audience may have about where Martian babies come from. The nanny bots raise only the Martian females, though. All of males are banished to the trash heaps to be raised by other males which means this planet is entirely ruled by women. We’ll get back to that later. The alien designs are . . . interesting. All the women have some serious child bearing hips (ironic since, as was previously stated, they do not bear the children) and all the males have dreadlocked hair and Rasta colors . . . and are rather dim-witted. They all, male and female, however, have long, flat heads and therefore look like ET’s taller cousins.
The Martian’s world in Mars needs Moms is colorless and cold with large screens adorning the walls where the supreme leader, or in this case, the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling), looks down upon all her servants and yells slogans and propaganda. Basically, the Martians, advanced in technology as they are, have slipped and fallen into some sort of Orwellian world. It’s not until our motley crew happen upon these deep underground caves and tunnels where the aliens used to live that we see that the Martian’s lives used to be filled with color and that they used to have families. Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system! So how did things get to where they are now? Why did the females take over the planet and banish the males to the dumps? It all becomes clear in the end as Ki confronts the Supervisor with the pictures taken in the underground caves and Supervisor responds she made all this happen because the females don’t have time to raise the young and that the males never helped with the care of the young because they were always too busy having fun. Really?!? It appears that Disney is now taking a stand for the power of the two-parent family saying that what is needed to raise children properly is the love and security that can only be found in a family. Well, that’s a nice thought. Good for Disney!
They could also be saying that the women’s liberation movement may ultimately lead our society into to a dull autocracy, but let’s stay positive.