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Pretty Crappy40.91%
Sucks: 23.64%

11 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Red Planet
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by Mark Freeman

"Wrong Direction To Mars"
2 stars

Red Planet is a film that seems to line up failure after failure, and refuses to exploit the possibilities of its basic premise. Placing itself squarely in the sci-fi/horror genre, this film doesn't manage to operate successfully within either of these parameters, nor forge any new ground in its feeble story of a catastrophic journey to the surface of Mars.

As science fiction, its gizmo wizardry is of the fairly mundane variety, and the monsters it offers on the planet itself are fairly tame. The other threat to the cast, the cyborg dog AMEE, merely recycles leftover hardware from The Terminator, and offers the opportunity to include some eye-of-the-monster point of view shots. In terms of horror, Red Planet doesn't make the grade either, unless, of course, you're including the script, the direction and several of the performances. In its defense, Red Planet does suffer from what has preceded it - Mission to Mars and Pitch Black have trod very similar ground and adopted very similar aesthetic approaches, and have in some ways already exhausted the market in the landing on Mars cycle. But the opportunity is still there to reinvigorate the approach to this film, and it seems that each crucial decision in this film has been poorly planned, poorly executed. And despite some occasional moments when the film lifts, it shudders to the ground again soon after, and remains permanently bound by its own inability to rise above the ill-considered constraints it places upon itself.

You have to suspect that the space program is slowly returning to the forefront of our global consciousness. Certainly the Challenger disaster put paid to the futuristic dreaming that seemed to inspire the world, a mindset captured so well in Rob Sitch's recent paean to space travel: The Dish. And whilst our fantasies of a journey through the cosmos have left the moon, and now centred on the red planet Mars, recent efforts to tap into this refocus through cinema have pretty much failed. Perhaps it's because we are no longer sure of exactly why we want to explore one of our closest neighbours - there doesn't seem any direct purpose to the mission, apart from showing that we can do it. And whilst such arguments may have been persuasive for the moon landing (and, of course, motivated by the Cold War's battle for supremacy), our contemporary attitude to actually landing people on Mars seems to lack a direction. And this is maybe why Red Planet doesn't work as it should - it's not quite sure what it's trying to achieve. It launches into an extraordinary opening sequence that is only notable for its astonishing narrative expediency. Through voice-over, our interchangeable Ripley substitute Bowman (Carrie-Ann Moss) explains that the world has been rendered uninhabitable through man's environmental carelessness and thus, the trip to Mars is underway to establish a habitable environment for a world-wide planetary transfer. Motivation established, we are then introduced to the characters one by one, and are given mini-personality profiles of each of them, so that we know what to expect when they actually start doing stuff. And, in case you're a bit slow, they wear great big name tags on their uniforms so that you don't forget who they are. Trust me, after the film, you'll forget them anyway. With all that character and motivation nonsense out of the way in the first three minutes of the film, we can happily drop all of that guff about development and just throw these types into various situations and wait for them to die or be rescued.

The choices made in the development of the narrative, though, seem to stymie any chance of tension, or conflict. Bowman, the centre of the film, is left stranded in orbit on the ship, whilst the men get to walk around on Mars and face all the dangers. This is one of the major problems with this film, and it never really survives because of it. As cliched as she may be, to reduce her to the watcher and not the doer robs the film of any impetus it may have established - it's like watching Ripley save the day from a lounge chair. She gets to push some buttons and do some zero gravity floating, but really, Bowman is only there as a dubious love interest for rebel Gallagher (Val Kilmer) to moon about, and to reach above herself to flick switches in a tight singlet. Those on the ground are equally uninteresting, although Simon Baker's Pettengill offers something at least for the others to work against. But basically the characters just wander around, moaning about how they're going to die one by one, which they manage to do, conveniently, and Terence Stamp gets to blather on about God and something about finding a good rock so that Val Kilmer has something poignant to do at the end of the film. But the performances, particularly Kilmer's and Stamp's are inept, by-the-numbers efforts, reducing tension to a fairly lackadaisical effort. Carrie-Ann Moss is something of a curiosity - it would be interesting to see her act in something which truly requires acting; there's a sense that she is a good actor, but so far she has had so little chance to show this off, that it's difficult to gauge her potential. Kilmer is irritating beyond belief as the cocky Gallagher. I know we're supposed to see him as the devil-may-care rebel, but he just comes across as a conceited, self-absorbed prat, and his pre-landing liaison in the shower with Bowman looks more like sexual harassment than the work of a smooth talking womaniser. The need to include this romance also reduces the film to something absurd - it's so unnecessary and misplaced in this film that it reeks of tokenism. Ripley didn't need one, and I can't for the life of me think why Bowman should, particularly when her bloke of choice comes across as nothing more than slime in a space suit.

There are moments that work - the sequence where the men run out of oxygen proves compelling, riveting, even, but once it looks like they might survive the excitement vanishes and we're back to the mundane again. Hoffman's direction refuses to do more than fulfil the requirements of a poor script, and of course the result is an ineffective, listless film of little significance. Its efforts to promote an ecological message are about as cutting edge as the last minutes of The Brady Bunch - they trot out the platitudes and think that that is enough to give the film some depth. Likewise the mumbo-jumbo of Stamp's lines on science and religion attempt to confront something more substantial, but the film is so shallow that issues of God and space flap on the ship like a poorly adhered bumper sticker.

Red Planet wants to be something better than it is, and it steadfastly fails to meet any of the requirements it sets for itself. It is a film misguided, misjudged and misdirected in the extreme, and only manages to mildly divert, rather than fully engaging on the levels to which it aspires.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4304&reviewer=243
originally posted: 12/16/00 09:18:35
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell not bad but nothing special 3 stars
11/26/11 AEB Enjoyable flick. Most character in the computer. :) 3 stars
11/30/08 Shaun Wallner Was'nt all that great! 2 stars
2/08/07 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 1 stars
8/27/06 Darko great style, same theme seen in hundreds of movies. worth watching 4 stars
10/06/05 Carolyn Rathburn it was an ok movie, I love Val Kilmer in almost anything 3 stars
8/18/05 ES hey I didn't hate it, but I'm not going to tell you to rent it either 3 stars
2/19/04 Dr. lecter Only good movie set on Mars is Total Recall 1 stars
8/06/03 P.Rodriguez Showed Promise, but ultimately dissapointing 3 stars
3/20/03 May Q. Horney Best of several Mars flicks released around that time. 4 stars
2/28/03 Matt Thiel "Mission to Mars" had a better story and likable characters. But not THAT much better. 2 stars
2/28/03 y2mckay An unmitigated disaster, and WTF is up with that robot dog? Kilmer a hack as usual 1 stars
1/25/03 Jack Sommersby Has a few good moments and performances, but purpose is lacking. 3 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Good effects, Moss, and still we cannot get the script right 2 stars
8/28/02 Hessian Kilmer and Sizemore work well together in this. Not a bad movie. 4 stars
8/13/02 palaboy101 DEFINITELY better than other "Mars" movies 4 stars
1/28/02 Doug Nothing bad about it, but nothing good either. Just kinda there. 3 stars
1/23/02 Jim Cast of cliches (half of whom are basically cameos) and nonsensical plot, but diverting 3 stars
1/21/02 Spencer Lent Most Mars movies suck. Compared to them this is a masterpiece. 3 stars
10/19/01 Mike I hated the robot! The actors' lines stunk. Bad movie 2 stars
10/09/01 P.Rodriguez Hey. I wasn't THAT bad, just not very good. 4 stars
8/06/01 ted v. forget Mission To Mars, this is definitely the better movie. 5 stars
8/05/01 badfish Great movie,Kilmer is, well,Kilmer 5 stars
6/30/01 Rampage One of the worst movies of 2000. My God, who was in charge here? 1 stars
5/09/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) And I thought Mission to Mars was bad. Fucking a... 1 stars
5/01/01 The Bomb 69 very average 3 stars
3/30/01 Jesse L Pathetic plot - Val!! First time I haven't liked one of your flicks! 1 stars
2/22/01 INCUBATOR Moss is beautiful but the movie is bullshit. Cut the crap, they couldn`t see atmosphere? Ha 2 stars
2/03/01 Eric Good special effects and decent cast is about it. Watch Mission to Mars instead. 2 stars
12/23/00 Bev Clark A derivative piece of shit. 1 stars
12/19/00 Shogun "I'm a microbiologist, I program in A's G's T's and P's." P's? Good fact checking. christ. 1 stars
12/18/00 Thrillhouse one of the lamest freakin' movies I've seen. Save your money. 2 stars
12/14/00 Mr J M HARWOOD Better than PITCH BLACK & MISSION 2 MARS 4 stars
12/08/00 Johnny the Baddass taxi driver It is totally crap. Not worth the 2.50 or 7.50 that you pay to see it. 1 stars
12/08/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble Hey let's send everyone involved with this shit to Mars right now. 1 stars
12/02/00 Destruction Worker At least it's not a mindless sfx fest. 5 stars
11/27/00 pipeman The worst fucking movie ever made. Avoid it at all costs. Ack. Ptui. 1 stars
11/17/00 Edward A Leonard What can I say, even Mission to Mars was better, and that sucked ass! 1 stars
11/13/00 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi I could've had a V-8. 1 stars
11/12/00 poetchuck How fortunate that a high voltage source appears just when needed--not at all believable 2 stars
11/12/00 Zaw We should goto Pluto Next time.. Blue Planet. Just another crappy movie. 1 stars
11/12/00 Stuntman Survivor meets Total Recall 3 stars
11/12/00 Greyjack No, it's not great; it's not horrid either. Interesting premise rendered kinda boring. 3 stars
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  10-Nov-2000 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2001


  07-Dec-2000 (M)

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