Jérémie Périn’s Mars Express has been one of Europe’s most exciting animated productions for a couple of years now after an eye-catching work-in-progress presentation at Annecy 2021.
There has been little news about the film since, but its producers at Everybody on Deck have now given Cartoon Brew exclusive access to a new clip from the feature.
This week, producers from Everybody on Deck are in Bordeaux to present parts of the nearly-finished film at Cartoon Movie, a leading European pitching and co-production platform for independently produced animated features. According to the film’s producers, animation is nearly finished and all that’s left is a bit of compositing before color grading can begin. Sound effects work is currently underway, and the film should be finished by the end of April.
Where and how audiences will be able to access the film hasn’t been nailed down yet, but Cannes runs May 16-24 and Annecy runs June 11-17. We wouldn’t be surprised if the film screened at either or both events.
Full plot details are still being kept mostly under wraps, but we do know that the film turns on Aline Ruby, a stubborn private detective, and her partner Carlos Rivera, who’s been dead five years but was “reincarnated” into the body of a robot. The two find themselves in a race against time to Mars. Their initial mission is to find Jun Chow, a cybernetics student on the run before the murderous assassins who are hot on her heels can catch her. What the investigators discover along the way, however, is larger than either of them could ever have expected.
While the film is aimed at adult audiences and does explore mature themes, it’s not all going to be gloom and doom. For the film’s story to feel relatable, it needed some real-life levity like that experienced by any normal person in the audience, only adapted to the futuristic world that Périn has created.
“Mars Express tries to be as serious as it can when it comes to approaching the genres of sci-fi and film noir,” says the director, who previously directed the Lastman series. “However, with characters and situations that can be very fun at times and weird at others, there is a lot of humor thanks to the weirdness of the world.”
Often, the humor is situational and satirical and plays with the absurdity that comes with advances in technology. Like any good sci-fi, Mars Express will have as much to say about our own world as the one inhabited by its characters, and satire can be an important means to that end.
“One thing I’ve always loved in cinema is when genre films – science fiction, thriller, horror – treat the codes of these genres like a pleasant gift box in which the spectator can easily get their bearings because they know the codes,” says Périn. He hopes that despite the film being set in the distant future, it will be easy to settle into the narrative thanks to the norms established by similar films that have come before it.
To that end, Périn looked to some of cinema’s most classic noir and sci-fi titles for inspiration. Among them were Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and especially Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop.
“I love this director,” says Périn of Verhoeven. “His work is fascinating precisely for his satirical side.”
Anyone in Bordeaux looking to learn more about Mars Express can do so on Wednesday, March 8, at 5 p.m. when Everybody on Deck hosts its presentation.