Mars Needs Moms 3D [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (28th July 2012).
The Film

I think it’s a safe bet to say that Disney is out of the Mars movie business for quite some time. After two consecutive years of colossal bombs set on the red planet – 2011’s “Mars Needs Moms”, and 2012’s “John Carter” - they’d be foolish to go back to the well a third time (although, I’ll openly admit “John Carter” isn’t as bad as some perceive… too bad it’ll never see a sequel). But while one of those massive duds wasn’t as terrible as its box office reflected (“John Carter”), there is no doubt that “Mars Needs Moms” deserved to die a fiery death in theaters. A product of director Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers Digital, this was yet another motion capture feature film that failed to successfully traverse the uncanny valley. The CGI humans look creepy, like a demented house of wax model come to life in animated form. Even worse, what effort was made to give humans characters a realistic appearance was apparently forgotten when it came to designing the Martians, who sport some of the laziest, seen-it-a-thousand-times visages ever. I literally find it appalling that someone blew $150 million thinking that anything in the script was worth turning into a feature film.

Co-writers Simon and Wendy Wells (he also directed the film) have no clue how to write a movie for kids. Let’s get that fact out of the way right now. The film’s central plot (annoying brat trying to locate his abducted mother) launches with some of the most cloying, emotionally weak scenes I’ve witnessed in a children’s movie. The attempts to paint Milo (mo-capped by Seth Green but voiced by Seth Dusky) as a troublesome youth don’t do much but show a portrait of a normal kid who hates broccoli and wants to watch stupid crap on TV. The weak mother-son rift is expanded upon once Martians show up to take her away due to her ability to talk to her son like a mom and, you know, not like he’s her peer or something. Apparently, most parents on Earth suck, so Martians are extremely selective when choosing them.

Once we get to the titular planet, Milo hooks up with some fat refugee named Gribble (Dan Fogler, or: the guy who you call when Jack Black is booked or too expensive). Gribble is our exposition character, so everything you need to know (and plenty you don’t) all comes from him. Don’t worry about missing anything; he talks so goddamn much that you’ll be begging for an alien from “Mars Attacks” (the Topps trading cards, not the weak-ass Tim Burton film from 1996) to fry him to death with a ray gun. We don’t get much information out of the Martians because they speak Martian. Kind of…

Apparently, the filmmakers thought it would be fun to let the actors improvise their Martian dialogue. Hey, when you’re blowing $150 million on a picture, why bother with things like hiring a competent linguist to conjure up some gobbledygook for us to go on. Here, the actors just go at it… and, boy, can you tell. Have you ever had a “conversation” with a friend where the two of you pretend you’re speaking a foreign language, but everything winds up sounding the same because you don’t know any words so you keep repeating similar sounds? That’s about what you can expect here. And, yes, if you’re curious to know it is as annoying as that sounds. This is one of those occasions where allowing your actors to improvise wasn’t the brightest idea.

I do remember reading some internet scuttlebutt about Seth Green being all butthurt over the fact that the studio had his voice dubbed over by an actual kid because his sounded too much like an adult trying to emulate a child. I hope it was a joke, though, because some of Green’s original takes are included on here in the delete scenes section and that’s exactly how it sounds. It’s almost so weird that I wish the studio had gone ahead and left his vocal track intact. It’s not like anyone saw the damn thing anyway, right?

If anyone is to be blamed for this costly venture into bomb territory, it should be Zemeckis. For the last decade he’s been doing nothing but making one poorly-received motion capture film after another. While some might be modest box office hits, none have lit the world on fire, and they all receive the same valid complaints about dead-eyed CGI creations that aren’t quite animated characters, yet they’re not human either. It’s a shame that so much money had to be wasted for him to learn the lesson, but I do have a feeling the message will stick for a while. Even though ImageMovers has a new 2-year deal at Universal Studios, Zemeckis has recently announced he’s finally going to make a live-action picture. Of course, I’m sure much of that has to do with Disney severing ties with his company (albeit pre-“Mars Needs Moms release, but I’m sure someone saw the writing on the wall early on) and canceling his proposed mo-cap version of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”. Motion capture technology can do wonderful things for some films, but it hasn’t worked yet for anything with Zemeckis’ name on it, and it took a financial disaster to cement it.

Video

Did you really expect a fully animated digital film from the Mouse House would have anything less than a stellar, out of this world transfer? Ok, good because the 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is flawless. Other than the griping I’ve already done about the look of the animation, one thing I can’t even remotely deny is that the image that has been produced here on home video is incredibly perfect. After a brief introduction on Mars, the film opens with Milo playing outside on a bright, sunny day. Colors are rich and vibrant, leaping off the screen with an impressive pop. The “lighting” (quotes since no one is really lighting the shots, but it’s there) makes sure that every square inch of the frame has enough clarity to make out all of the fine visual details packed into each shot. Once we hit Mars, the planet’s rusty red landscapes look appropriately barren and desolate. I was particularly impressed with the scrapyard that Gribble calls home – it has such a wonderfully chaotic, post-apocalyptic vibe going for it. The best use of animation comes when Milo and Gribble reach an underground portion of the Martian world where everything looks like an LSD flashback. The colors are “breathing” and changing so often, I thought for a second I actually was on acid. Say whatever you will about the film (pssttt… it’ll be mostly bad), but the image presented here is among the best you’ll find on Blu-ray.

The 3D image is equally impressive, the depth looks great especially the Martian landscapes, the problem is that the uncanny valley aspect of the characters comes out in a whole new creepy way when presented in 3D. The flaws of the motion capture technology really come out in full force with this version of the film. Having been rendered in 3D the image features hardly any ghosting, which is great considering.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit is in many ways a sleeping giant. Aside from the Martian kidnapping near the opening, the film’s first act or two is a very front-centric, almost subtle affair, with very little major activity to get your system’s juices pumping. The track is generally well balanced, exhibiting a great sound design with a solid presence, but there’s not much oomph until the third act brings with it more action and, thus, more opportunity for the track to shine. When it does, it’s impeccable. The roar of the LFE does wonders in making up for much of the previous inactivity, and it isn’t overbearing, rather it adds just the right level of bass to buttress the track. I found the score to be very generic, like any other action-y kids film. It would’ve been nice to have something that goes out on a limb, maybe replicating some of the scores used by classic sci-fi pictures to some degree, but the final product here is throwaway and unmemorable.

The disc also includes an English Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track, as well as French & Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Despite the film turning out to be a financial black hole, Disney has still spared no expense in bring “Mars Needs Moms” to home video with a completely stacked 4-disc combo pack that has enough formats included to keep you covered in any room. The multi-disc set includes a 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Feature-wise, we’re looking at an interactive in-movie experience, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, bonus trailers, and more.

DISC ONE: 3D BLU-RAY

The only extra found on this disc that isn’t anywhere else is an exclusive 3D deleted scene (1080p), running for 1 minute, which has Milo catching a glimpse of his mother’s kidnappers in the process of taking her away.

DISC TWO: BLU-RAY

“Life on Mars: The Full Motion Capture Experience” (1080p) is an interactive feature that runs through the length of the film. This allows viewers to watch the film alongside a PiP window that showcases the film being shot on a set, with the actors wearing their mo-cap suits and acting out their scenes. There is an optional commentary with writer/director Simon Wells, and actors Seth Green and Dan Fogler that’s both fun and informative, with all three participants filling in details on shooting the film, scripting, using mo-cap, etc. I believe “Avatar” (2009) had a similar feature on the special edition Blu-ray. I like seeing how the acting matches up to the finished product, especially since it can be easy for viewers to forget that someone is actually acting out all these scenes in addition to voicing them.

“Fun with Seth” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 2 minutes and 28 seconds. This short piece features Green horsing around on set, looking like he’s having a blast wearing the mo-cap suit and getting the cast & crew to laugh at his antics.

“Martian 101” (1080p) featurette runs for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Remember that I mentioned the actors were given free rein to riff on the Martian dialect? Well, this is footage of the actual actors doing so in their mo-cap suits. It’s slightly less annoying when you can actually see Frau Farbissina herself (Mindy Sterling) shouting it out, though.

A number of deleted scenes (1080p) with introduction by writer/director Simon Wells are included. Note that all are in rough form with unfinished effects or no effects at all, just the raw mo-cap footage:

- “Extended Opening” runs for 3 minutes and 11 seconds, we get to see a little more of the Martian children being born.
- “Begonia Attack” runs for 2 minutes and 48 seconds. Milo gets tricked into doing yard work.
- “Adlibs from Gribble’s Lair” runs for 4 minutes and 24 seconds, more with George and Milo.
- “Swinging Bridge” runs for 1 minute and 6 seconds, Gribble is proud of the walkway he built.
- “Angry George Ribble” runs for 6 minutes and 2 seconds, he & Milo have an argument about the plan of action.
- “Gribble Growing Up” runs for 4 minutes and 39 seconds, learn how George managed to cope with life on Mars.
- “Mars Monorail” runs for 5 minutes and 32 seconds, the gang hitches a quick ride into the city.

“Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa” (1080p) promo runs for 4 minutes and 23 seconds. “Look, Mommy & Daddy, my favorite second-tier Disney characters are saying we need to upgrade our system with costly new equipment!”

“Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go: DisneyFile Digital Copy” (1080p) promo runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds. Behold in wonderment the ability to insert a disc into your computer and transfer it to another device. It’s magic!

Finally – as you’d expect – Disney has crammed what space remains on this Blu-ray with an exhaustive amount of bonus trailers (1080p):

- “Prom” runs for 1 minute and 47 seconds.
- “The Lion King” runs for 1 minute and 37 seconds.
- “Winnie the Pooh” runs for 2 minutes and 58 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards promo” runs for 17 seconds.
- “Lion King: The Musical” runs for 39 seconds.
- “Phineas & Ferb” runs for 30 seconds.
- “Spooky Buddies” runs for 1 minute and 42 seconds.
- “African Cats” runs for 1 minute and 38 seconds.
- “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” runs for 1 minute and 12 seconds.

DISC THREE: DVD

The standard definition copy of the film contains only the “Fun With Seth” and “Martian 101” featurettes and, of course, all those bonus trailers.

DISC FOUR: DIGITAL COPY

I don’t know why Disney still includes these digital copies on a fourth disc; their combo packs are already bloated as it is. Meh. Load this one up if you feel like torturing your kids outside the home, I suppose.

Packaging

This 4-disc combo pack comes housed in Disney’s standard thick blu-ray case. A cardboard slip-cover is included on initial pressings.

Overall

This is a fantastic example of when a film bombs and it’s fully deserved. “Mars Needs Moms” isn’t fun for anyone – adult, child… hell, I think even Martians would be offended. Hopefully this is the final stake in the heart for Zemeckis’ motion capture fetish, and we can all be spared seeing his creepy faux-human creations on the big screen forever.

The 3D video image portion of the review was reviewed by Noor Razzak. Everything else reviewed by Anthony Arrigo.

The Film: D Video: A+ Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: C-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.