Huo xing yi bian [Mutation on Mars] (2021)

I keep finding myself drawn to the Chinese science fiction films you find advertised on Youtube, even though I find most of them just a little less than fully satisfying.

Now as far as I can figure out, they’re being churned out for streaming on iQiyi.  They typically run just about an hour and promise wild creatures, dazzling effects and so on.

Mind you, the best bits are usually in the trailer.

Oh, and on the official Youtube background.

A big, weird storm threatens the international Mars base, they try to launch their escape rocket, but a giant monster unexpectedly gets in the way and they crash.

Fortunately, a Chinese space mission is on its way to Europa and they detour to try to save the survivors.

Now you know what to expect: the survivors struggle to survive in the harsh Martian desert, the rescuers have to make big sacrifices while all the soldiers in Ground Control salute, and everyone has to fight off the giant chameleon created by the base’s resident, ummm…mad scientist.

And it’s not bad for what it is, although you can easily recognize just how much it has been focused on luring people into streaming the film: in most films, the first sequence, which ends with our first glimpse of what is causing the storm, wouldn’t give away so much.

But it makes sense if you want to keep viewers watching.

Plus it is in the trailer.  Naturally.

As I said, you pretty know what to expect from these films.  As always it looks great, and they did a great job on the monsters and spaceships.  This isn’t the least of the iQiyi movies I’ve seen, but unlike the better ones, it doesn’t have anything that lifts it above the ordinary, like the creepy atmospherics of the Lovecraftian horror film, Alien Invasion [Zhēnqín yì shòu], or the overflowing mess of conceptual ideas in Invisible Alien.

Although you do have to admit that giant monster — what it is, and where it came from — is way cool…

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Which this time focuses on…Mike Nesmith???

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