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MARS NEEDS MOMS. Simon Wells, dir., co-script with Wendy Wells. Berkeley Breathed, book. USA: ImageMovers, Walt Disney Productions (prod.) / Disney et all. (dist.; see IMDb for details), 2011. Robert Zemeckis, Steven J. Boyd, producers, with two others. Doug Chiang, Production Design. Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon, featured voices and players (the main character, Milo, gets complicated: see IMDb cast list, "Seth Robert Dusky").

Motion-capture animation, in 2-D and 3-D. The gender and racial/ethnic politics of the film are somewhere between problematic and really bad, so CAUTION. Into its first week of release, MNM appears to be a major money-loser (though probably not on political grounds) but is of use for interesting recycling of a number of tropes, motifs, or, viewed negatively, clichés of films dealing with the human/machine interface. In addition to numerous screens and things cybernetics, see for a comic insectoid/spider-like small machine that gets the best sight-gag of the movie: throwing up nuts, bolts, and screws at otherwise privileged love-stuff (note also the machine's tri-fold vision sensors, echoing War of the Worlds as novel and George Pal's 1953 film). Mars has a surface world with buildings that can rise above the surface, plus a variety of underworlds. The surface Martians are females, looking like a combination of ungulate and Barbie doll, except for the Supervisor, who adds queen bee, Asian "Tiger Mom,"* and war-lord in a Samurai movie, for the cliché of matriarchal hive enlivened a bit with suggestions of a highly militaristic mare-led antelope herd and poisoned a good deal with anti-Asian stereotypes. Surface Martian warrior-women have body armor reminiscent of Imperial Storm Troopers and the Cubist-headed "Walking Bombs" of Chapter 3 of FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE. Male Martian infants are dumped into the Martian underworld, while the females are raised by robot nannies, who need to be programmed with the personality of a hard-nose, effective-disciplinarian mother, which is why it's not MARS NEEDS WOMEN (as in the 1967 SciFi flick) but MNM. The personality transfer is thematically like that of METROPOLIS, except the human woman is destroyed — and the image is the horrific one of the drilled-brain implant from INVADERS FROM MARS (1953 [Erlich is less sure of the 1986 re-make since that wasn't burnt into his 10-year-old's memory]). The underworlds of Mars are male-dominated, with one being garbage-strewn and lit with hellish fire and another featuring water and colors and a colorful rock painting of an ancient Martian family. Similarly to PLEASANTVILLE (1998), the over-ordered dystopian surface is mostly colorless, challenged by a female graffiti artist who's seen Terran hippy-dippy 70s (sic, I think — RDE) nostalgia TV; the overly-ordered surface society is also potentially challenged by the underworld males, except they're colorful and lively but "dumb as a box of rocks" (the sexism is mostly against females but there's enough to include stereotypes for males). The movie ends in romantic-comic fashion with a new and more flexible world on Mars — with the Supervisor and all the Martian adults caring for Martian kids — and the re-establishment of the kid-hero's Terran nuclear family. (For a family film, though, Mom has only the thankless role of a kind of Sleeping Beauty — Disney style — to be saved, and the Terran Dad is one step above a cameo part.)

        * Note: Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was published in January 2011 and is highly unlikely to be a direct source of the Supervisor character; the term, however, is useful for a militantly domineering mother.

5. DRAMA, RDE, 16/III/11