“Mars Express”, a film noir in a cyberpunk world

“Mars Express”, a film noir in a cyberpunk world


After a tremendous boom in the 1990s, the niche of animation for adults has, over the past twenty years, shrunk dramatically, the genre having massively fallen back on children’s imagination. However, a few gestures remain, particularly in France, thanks to a wave of animators who are looking a lot towards Japan: Patrick Imbert with The Summit of the Gods (2021), adapted from a manga by Jiro Taniguchi, or even Pierre Földes with Saules blind people, sleeping woman (2023), based on the short stories by Haruki Murakami.

Mars Express , which arrives in theaters after a rich festival tour (Cannes, Annecy), participates in the same orientalism, but this time draws its inspiration from pure genre logic. Indeed, the first feature film by Jérémie Périn, born in 1978, trained at the prestigious Parisian school of Gobelins and revealed with the Lastman series (2016-2022), spawns with the cyberpunk fringe of science fiction (SF), a dystopian fantasy little visited in France, but of which Japanese animation was one of the most long-lived centers, between Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo, in 1988, and Ghost in the Shell , by Mamoru Oshii, in 1995.

Cyberpunk depicts a world at a complete stage of artificialization, where robotics threatens to supplant humans, computers to hack consciousness, private firms to subjugate society – a way in short of amplifying the contemporary ills. The relatively near future (horizon 2200) of Mars Express is the same, divided between an old Earth crumbling under the overpopulation of humans made obsolete and a Martian colony, Noctis, a domed metropolis where the economic elite has migrated, including benefiting from the latest technological advances: omnipresence of robots, mechanical prostheses, sprawling transport, telecommunications integrated into mental flows, cutting-edge home automation governed by artificial intelligence.

Aline Ruby, an alcoholic in recovery, and her teammate Carlos Rivera, a “saved” android model to whom the memory of a dead person has been transferred, form a duo of private detectives in the pay of tech mogul Chris Roy Jacker (as a futuristic clone of Elon Musk). They are investigating a student who disappeared following illegal work on “unleading” robots, a software operation which consists of removing their legal barriers, and therefore emancipating them from human supervision. While almost everywhere androids stand out for their erratic, even dangerous behavior, a band of organized killers, keen to make evidence and clues disappear, turns against the detectives.

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