Running Time: 106 minutes
Starring: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt, Carrie-Anne Moss, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp.
Directed By: Antony Hoffman
Rating: 3.5 out of 10
A space crew heads to Mars to check on the progress to colonize it.
The fourth planet from the sun has always been the royalty planet in the Sci-Fi world. There is something so enticing about a planet decked out all in red. Mars in movies has held human colonies and it has been the source of mining expeditions. It has sent a vast host of alien creature types to take over our planet and exterminate our race. In fact there have been so many books and movies about Mars that it is hard to pull off an original successful story about the planet. So when I popped in this movie I didn’t have much hope and my concerns were justified. Red Planet is the story of earth in the mid 21st century. A small group of astronauts head to Mars to see what has happened to its stalled Terra forming plans. What should be a routine visit turns into a mission for survival.
A quick introduction and short synopsis of the small space crew was a strange choice for this film. Each character is presented with a few adjectives defining their personalities and then we are off to Mars. Some people might like the lack of depth in the character backgrounds while others will find it a little too quick to start off a film. I kind of liked it because really this isn’t some dramatic film to inspire emotional responses. While it might have made the crews struggle for survival a little tenser if they were developed more, I still felt it was a good start. As the crew heads to Mars on a futuristic space shuttle nothing much happens. They discuss the importance of their mission and the finer points of theology but for the most part it is just innocuous film watching. The film doesn’t really get going until they make it onto the Mars surface and start looking for a surface station. By get going I mean walking around and nothing really happening. If you have seen one space movie than this film will not impress you at all. They run into the typical Mars problems. Space suit malfunctions, inclement weather, bickering about directions. It is a sad entry into the Sci-Fi world and it just never clicks.
It has a very capable cast but a forgettable one also. Val Kilmer plays this surfer looking mechanic named Gallagher. Carrie-Anne Moss plays the ship captain Bowman. Tom Sizemore plays doctor Burchenal. They are not terrible and yet they bring nothing of worth to the table. By far the worst performance is turned in by Benjamin Bratt. He is playing Lt. Santen who is a tough guy and a playboy. He is so unbelievable as this flashy and macho character that all I could picture was him holding Julia Roberts purse as he escorted her down the red carpet as he acted. He has laughable in the role.
As the crew fights for their lives one wonders where the story is going to go with this. Are they going to be attacked by Aliens? Do they run out of oxygen? Do they kill each other? I am not going to ruin it but what the crew faces for survival just sucks the life out of the film. The crew is picked off one by one with many different causes but what stalks them from the shadows is the dumbest thing I have seen in a movie in a long time. All I will say is apparently someone has a thing for the play Cats and the movie Short Circuit. Also when a crew member is killed the visuals tended to be sloppy and shaky losing the overall effect. What I will say positive about the film is the special effects for the most part are crisp and believable (Not including scenes with fire because they were terrible). The space ship and planet are very well put together and little things like futuristic space maps and tools are nice touches. Bottom line though this film just had too many things thrown at the viewer. The crew faces too many obstacles for one film to be taken seriously.
Director Antony Hoffman looks to be a one and done director after this debacle. This film tanked on so many levels including at the box office. With a healthy budget (70 Mill approx) and a decent cast this film somehow never got where it was supposed to go. The deaths are anticlimactic, the story is bland, and the struggles for survival illicit little joy. The effects are good but not enough to save this film. He has not worked since so I must not be the only one he upset with this.
I cannot recommend this film. It is a stale entry into the world of space and will be quickly forgotten in Sci-Fi circles everywhere.
T Factor + If you like movies about space then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you have seen lots of movies about space than this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Mission to Mars, Total Recall.