‘Mars Express’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Is Aline Dead?

It is always a great pleasure to see an original animation film, especially when it’s coming from outside of America. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Disney and Pixar films, but the excitement is usually a notch higher for a non-English-language animation because the possibilities are endless. Mars Express, a recent French 2D animation film, is a testament to that. Cyberpunk science-fiction film doesn’t exactly have a groundbreaking plot per se. It does remind you of things like Blade Runner, West World, and most notably, Ghost in the Shell. Yet, the film stands on its own merit thanks to a wonderfully nuanced screenplay, superb execution, and terrific voice acting by its cast. In about ninety-minutes, it packs a lot of things, like a human-AI conflict, a murder mystery, and a conspiracy, into one heady cocktail of cinema. It is not exactly easy to follow thanks to the amount of things happening, and you do get lost at times, but in the end, the experience is rewarding. The ending of Mars Express is quite ambiguous, and it’s understandable if you’re seeking explanations. In this article, I’m going to make an attempt to provide you with some of that.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens in the Movie?

It’s the future, and humans and androids are cohabitating on Mars. There’s also human-robot hybrids where the memory of a human has been transferred into an android body. Detective Aline is looking into the disappearance of university student Jun Chow, upon her parents’ request. Aline’s partner, Carlos, is a humanoid who’s not on good terms with his former wife, who won’t let him see his kid. The robot versus human issue is looming large, as many humans are opposed to machines having equal rights—clearly, these humans are not fans of Westworld, just saying!


At the start of Mars Express, Aline is trying to arrest hacker Roberta, who’s apparently trying to develop a code that will cause a takeover of society by the androids. Roberta’s motives and backstory are never clarified, so we don’t know for a fact why she would do that. Anyway, Aline fails at arresting Roberta, and tech mogul Chris Royjacker requests that she stop looking into Roberta and just chill. Royjacker and Aline seem to be on friendly terms, although their ideologies seem to be as different as chalk and cheese. Clearly, Aline is playing for the wrong team here! 

What Happens To Jun Chow?

The very first scene of Mars Express is actually Jun Chow, the hacker cum student, getting killed, but later you realize that’s not the real Jun; it’s a robot backup of her that she had created. In fact, Jun was actually paying for her tuition fee and also sending money to her parents by making her backup earn through prostitution. Aline does manage to uncover the truth, but the real Jun gets murdered by a robot assassin right after being found by her. Aline takes the death pretty hard and gives in to her alcoholism. Carlos tries his best to be there for his partner, but he can’t get her back on track. 


Is Aline Dead?

Here’s the thing: to completely grasp every single detail of the film, you probably have to watch it four to five times. Because it’s extremely vivid and filled with so much information. But I believe what director Jeremie Perin really wanted was to throw some dilemmas at the audience and leave them in a contemplative state. Even though it is set on 2200 Mars, the central themes of the film are still quite relatable. We’re living in a time where the conversation about AI taking over has already started, thanks to the likes of ChatGPT and all. What this film is basically doing is escalating that same conversation and showing us a possible outcome of it. The robots are not quite the villains in Mars Express.  They are just paranoid androids. The topics of free will and freedom (with respect to AI) go hand in hand with the subject matter, which has been explored in the film. Ironically, even the whole “robots taking over” in the movie is triggered by human beings here, too, with a catch. The all-important code that causes the droids to take over control (and attack humans) also compels the robots to get inside the spaceship and potentially leave Mars. Of course, someone like Royjacker has to be the man behind it.

It was only a matter of time for Aline to figure out what’s the deal here. It didn’t come easy for her, as she had to go through a whole ordeal of Royjacker’s people trying to kill her and Carlos, and then the whole brain-farming stuff. To think there can be something like brain farming (it’s basically putting your memory in someone else’s head and letting it grow, in case you were wondering while watching the movie) is both scary and exciting! Anyway, once Aline teams up with Roberta to reconstruct backup Jun, she realizes what went wrong. Unfortunately, she is caught by the police and gets stuck inside the prison. That is only short-lived, as the Android uprising happens very soon and the chaos begins. Droid Jun frees Aline, and she rushes to Royjacker for the ultimate confrontation. Carlos joins her, and the two of them reach Royjacker’s mansion. Breaching the security turns out to be a helluva task, though, thanks to Royjacker’s guards and also his newly appointed gigantic creature robots. That’s a clear indication that Royjacker is already moving to the next level of AI, which was already predicted by his OG AI, Beril. 


In Mars Express‘ ending, Aline does apprehend Royjacker, but it doesn’t go as per the plan. Royjacker doesn’t turn out to be the big, menacing villain that you would expect. In fact, he was just doing something for a whole group of rich and powerful human beings who thought droids getting stronger was no good news for them. Royjacker obviously couldn’t do anything by going against his own tribe. His guards taking a shot at Aline and Carlos violently shooting Royjacker is not what I saw coming, but guess Mars Express wanted to surprise the audience! It is not clear whether Aline is going to die, but considering she’s down and the amount of blood she’s losing, that’s the likely outcome. Also, if she had any chances of surviving, Carlos wouldn’t leave her behind. I also believe Aline’s death also means Carlos has nothing else to do with mankind anymore, and his joining the spacebound robots is very much an implication of that. What’ll happen to the robots? Also unclear, but they might actually get fried. However, that doesn’t mean another civilization of droids will not be able to rise in the foreseeable future. Mars Express doesn’t leave us with a conclusion, but I feel the agenda was always to make us think and start a conservation among ourselves.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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