Martian Child (2007)

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Released 26-Jun-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Be Kind Rewind, The Invasion, Run Fatboy Run
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Featurette-Making Of-Working with the Martian Child
Featurette-The Real Martian Child
Audio Commentary-with producers and screenwriters
Theatrical Trailer-original trailer for Martian Child
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 102:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Menno Meyjes
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Cusack
Bobby Coleman
Amanda Peet
Sophie Okonedo
Joan Cusack
Oliver Platt
Bud
Case ?
RPI ? Music Aaron Zigman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format ?
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, amazon.com, Lucky Charms
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Martian Child is an interesting story, that on some levels may appear to be sci-fi (especially given the title), but is essentially about the relationship between a single man and his adopted son, who claims to be from Mars.

Dutch director Menno Meyjes (Capa, Manolete) has created this film based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by David Gerrold, who's a science-fiction writer, perhaps best known for writing the classic Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles. I guess being a story with a title like Martian Child, and being written by a sci-fi author would tend to lend a strong sci-fi feel to this whole story.

However I felt it was far more about exploring the relationship between a single father, David Gordon (played by John Cusack) and a young boy with behavioural problems who he adopts. Gordon is a science-fiction writer who has lost his wife and meets with a young boy, Dennis (Bobby Coleman) at a group home for abandoned children. Dennis claims to be from Mars and exhibits some fairly serious behavioural problems, more of which become apparent as David gets to know him. There is always the question raised as to whether or not Dennis is actually from Mars, and whether he really does have some special 'Martian Wishes' which he can use to control certain events.

John Cusack turns in a wonderful-to-watch, expressive performance as the father, displaying conflicted emotions on many occasions without ever over-playing his role. Without denigrating Cusack's strong performance, I think 10 year old Bobby Coleman stole the show as Dennis (the Martian Child). He put in a stunning, mature performance, filled with raw emotion in a pretty difficult role that often required him to carry scenes on his young shoulders. Hope we see this talent carefully nurtured to equally or even greater roles in the near future.

Other cast members, including Joan Cusack and Amanda Peet put in strong supporting performances. The only cast member I was a little disappointed in was Sophie Okonedo, who looked a bit out of her depth and delivered a somewhat two-dimensional performance. Surely the producers could have found some talented American actress to play the role, rather than resorting to a British TV actress?

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Transfer Quality

Video

The transfer on this disk presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

The sharpness is good throughout, as one would expect from a very recent theatrical release.

Black level and shadow detail are good. For example the very dark jacket and shirt at 49:00

The colour palette used in this film is beautifully rich and this comes across perfectly on this transfer, without ever being oversaturated.

There were no visible MPEG artefacts, nor any film-to-video artefacts.

Subtitles in English are available and are accurate and well-synced with the actors' spoken words.

This is a dual layer disk, with the layer change occurring at 76:12. Well placed at the end of a scene, it resulted in a very brief pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There are two audio tracks, not including the commentary track. A Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.

The 5.1 soundtrack was good, but I felt the overall volume level was quite low.

Dialogue was clear at all times, without any issues of distortion or audio sync.

The music, by Aaron Zigman (The Jane Austen Book Club, Bridge to Terabithia) was pleasant enough and fitted in nicely without drawing attention to itself. There were a couple of wonderful songs, especially one by Yusuf Islam and the classic Mr Blue Sky by ELO.

This was primarily a dialogue-driven movie, hence most of the surround sound activity was limited to the front speakers. However there were some instances of discrete effects from the rear speakers, such as in the opening sequence, as well as the helicopters and voices at 90:00.

The subwoofer was called in to support music and some sound effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Considering this is a single-disk release, the extras are reasonably comprehensive.

Trailers

Three trailers appear before the main menu.

Be Kind Rewind

The Invasion

Run Fatboy Run

Dolby Digital Trailer

This time it's the 'Train' version of this. I always feel that DVD producers include one of these on films that don't have much surround activity, just so the viewer feels some joy that their rear speakers made some sounds!

Deleted Scenes

A 26-minute collection of deleted scenes. These were obviously taken out of the film very late in the process, or were deliberately 'finished off' for the DVD, as they're presented with all visual effects completed, in 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced with full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Documentary

"Working with the Martian Child". runtime 23:30. 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced.

This documentary focuses on Bobby Coleman, the young actor who plays Dennis, the Martian Child. There are plenty of snippets of interviews with producers, director and even Bobby's parents (his mother plays a cameo role in the film)

There is also some original audition footage, as well as some views behind-the-scenes.

Documentary

"The Real Martian Child". runtime 12:49. 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced.

This documentary focuses more on the original story, including interviews with David Gerrold, the author of the original book. There are also interviews with some of the film's producers.

Audio Commentary

Curiously, this commentary track features two producers (David Kirschner and Corey Sienega) and both the screenwriters (John Tolins and Seth Bass), but not the director nor any of the cast. Nevertheless, it's packed with detail and generally quite relevant to whatever appears on screen. They provide a fair wealth of information about the filming, actors, and even differences between the original book and the film.

Original Trailer

The original theatrical trailer for Martian Child (runtime 2:19). Curiously, this trailer is in 2.35:1 aspect ratio though the original film was in 1.85:1.

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The R1 version appears to have Spanish subtitles.

The R4 version would be the recommended one, unless one had to have the Spanish subtitles.

Summary

Martian Child could be seen by some as being a sci-fi movie, but I would classify it more as a family-relationship story, with some sci-fi background. Great performances by the lead cast, and some lovely cinematography help along a plot that's perhaps a little thin in places. Whilst most of the story stayed just short of soppy, I felt the ending was just a little too 'sweet', though not unpleasantly so..

My lasting memory of this film is the quality of the acting, especially by Bobby Coleman and John Cusack, as well as the gentle and moving story, elements of which are just occasionally a little 'forced' on the viewer.

The picture quality is very good, with no traces of any artefacts. The audio quality is good, though at a relatively low level.

For a single-disk release, the extras are comprehensive, especially the 26 minutes of deleted scenes and the commentary by producers and screenwriters.

Definitely recommended for a viewing, but be warned, don't expect it to be anything like Mission to Mars, or Red Planet!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Friday, July 04, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPioneer PDP508xda 50" plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

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