This French sci-fi noir movie explores the human condition more than technology or metaphysics.

In space, no one can hear robots say «merde»


8. April 2024

When a college student at a prestigious university on Mars goes missing, Aline Ruby, a private detective, and her dead partner, now in android form, are hired to track her down. As they investigate who is responsible for new technology that frees robots from mental restrictions, they decide to fight against the impending future of the future.

Mars Express is a French animated sci-fi noire movie where sentient robots are commonplace. The setting and story feel distinctly human, however. The world is lived in, with robots cracking jokes and futuristic technology being used rather than explained. The narrative is tightly knit, with every scene tying into the greater mystery and rewarding attentive watching. The animation is also easy on the eyes with great facial expressions and scenery.

Do not go into this movie expecting a philosophical exploration of consciousness and artificial intelligence. This is not what this movie is interested in. The movie does not make a distinction between human minds copied into robot bodies and robots who are not based on humans. For all intents and purposes, they are the same narratively. It does tell a suspenseful story with sudden turns while still leaving room for its characters to breathe and be vulnerable.

The movies action scenes are exciting, with a tasteful depiction of violence. Although the emotional tone is often sombre, I admit I also laughed out loud quite a few times. The comedy comes mostly from the robot cast, who are very human, navigating a world still primarily designed for humans.