It takes Mission Controller ‘Mack’ 81 days to reach Mars and 2036 Origin Unknown a little less to make its point. In the vast, vacuous setting of space, Hasraf Dulull’s Mars mission goes tediously adrift.
Mack is played by Katee Sackhoff – an actress who is best known for her roles in sci-fi films. She starred in the long running television series Battlestar Galactica and then the Vin Diesel action thriller, Riddic. But that was 2013; now the year is 2036 and Sackhoff’s career looks to be waning.
As the AI sceptical space commander and grieving daughter, she looks laboured and at odds with her role. There’s an irony to her incessant bouncing of a stress ball. It could be because she acts alone for most of the film. Her only companion (or adversary) for the lion share of the mission is ARTI: an AI devoid of emotion.
Resembling a 1960s Keracolor TV, unlike Alicia Vikander’s Ava (Ex Machina) and Michael Fassbender’s David (Prometheus), ARTI is far from being human. Ava and David are cunning and deadly because of their intellectual likeness to humans. Their in-built curiosity ultimately kills off the cats. ARTI, though, is strictly obedient. He doesn’t laugh or reveal any nuanced characteristics. He’s little more than the ceiling mounted workhorse to an ambitious space programme.
The film is heavy on dialogue and is mostly shot inside a well designed command room. Higher grossing sci-fis have looked tackier. Much of Dulull’s inspiration was clearly gleaned from Stanley Kubrick’s similarly named 2001: A Space Odyssey. But then what sci-fi films haven’t been?
Unlike the mind-bogglingly cinematic ending to Interstellar, 2036’s closing note is flaccid. When the ‘twist’ pinched I was staring into a distant, more interesting space.