Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Martian Child


This is based on a novelette (later expanded into a novel) by my friend David Gerrold. David was the first professional SF writer I ever met, way back at Westercon in Oakland, 1975, where he was the guest of honor. The short version of this story won the Hugo and the Nebula award, which is a little odd because it is not really science fiction … but what the hell, a good story is a good story. I am sorry to say that I have not read it, but I’m assuming it’s good. They don’t give those awards to trash.

It concerns a recent widower (John Cusack, one of my favorite actors) who adopts a troubled young boy who claims he is a Martian. The whole story is very autobiographical, “inspired by real events.” A DVD extra, “The Real Martian Child,” shows us Sean, the child David adopted in 1992, and tells us how the real story and the fiction differed. In reality, the Martian business was a game David and Sean played. In the movie, the child seems as if he might have some odd powers over traffic lights and baseballs, but nothing is done with this. In real life, that was only part of the game; “Martian wishes,” not actual powers. The only thing the real, now grown, Sean claims he can do is tell the colors of M&Ms by taste alone. (I’m skeptical—I’m always skeptical—but I’d like to see him do it.) In real life, David is gay. In the movie, John Cusack is not.

I really, really wanted to like this film, but it just didn’t work. The little kid is talented, but I found him annoying in this part, both from the lines in the script and from his wheezy little voice. Scenes went on way too long, and many of them seemed basically repeats of what had gone before. It was desperately in need of a little humor. It’s a weird situation, but not much was made of it. It all seemed too solemn. And the ending was sheer melodrama and, again, too long.