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Movie Review

Mission to Mars

MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi violence and language

Reviewed by: Brian Wolters

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Scene from “Mission to Mars”

Are we alone in the Universe? Answer

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Did a “Martian” meteorite proven the existence of ET? Answer

Questions and Answers about The Origin of Life

Featuring: Don Cheadle, Tim Robbins, Jerry O’Connell, Kim Delaney, Elise Neal
Director: Brian De Palma
Producer: Story Musgrave, Tom Jacobson
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

As a science fiction fan, I especially enjoy films that deal with current or near-future explorations into space. When I first heard of “Mission to Mars”, I was excited with the possibilities of a story surrounding our first mission to the red planet. But after viewing “Mission to Mars”, I have to say that it was one of the few movies I have ever wanted to walk out from. From opening to ending, it is filled with plot holes, bad acting, even worse dialogue and illogical direction.

I was expecting a “goose bump” inducing scene showing our first landing and steps on Mars. We don’t get it. Once taken to Mars, we are introduced to a Mars rover and we then see humans are already there stumbling onto a mysterious phenomenon. (The movie really pushes the “PG” rating in a few death scenes early on.) There is almost no sense of mystery in the film and it only gets worse.

Scene from “Mission to Mars”

The acting is stiff and forced. While there is a collection of good actors, the dialogue is so horrendous that it elicits unintentional laughter. One character, intended to be the comic relief, ends up being laughed at not because of his humor, but because his dialogue is so bad.

The direction of “Mission to Mars” is probably the worst aspect. Despite an interesting sequence involving dancing in “zero g,” everything else unintentionally gives the impression that everyone in the film are idiots. For example, take the scene where the first crew finds the mysterious object on Mars. The wind picks up and they just stand there—not in awe or fright, but for no visible reason at all. Maybe just to be targets to die early on. One crew member shields his face from the sand. With a helmet on?

Another scene shows us a crew member that sacrifices their own self to save others. I don’t want to give it away, but the method they use is so illogical and badly directed, that you don’t know how to react. They show the scene and then give us 3-4 long shots of the dead body. This scene disturbed my wife because it was unexpected and extremely awkward. She and I both felt that it wasn’t necessary to further the film.

When we finally get to see some “aliens,” it is too late. And while that moment could have been an emotional and uplifting scene, it is instead reminiscent of “Close Encounters”, “Contact” and “The Abyss” all mixed into one.

As far as moral content, there are a few moments of bad language and some very light “sensual” moments, but nothing terribly offensive in those areas. The idea of someone killing themselves to save others sets a bad example and is not a good illustration of self-sacrifice. The film hints that Mars is the origin of life on Earth and may influence those who are not Biblically sound. Those who are easily influenced by this kind of material may want to stay away from this picture.

Overall, I can’t recommend this film because it is a disaster in screen writing and direction. There is a scene where an “alien being” sheds a tear. Being in a film like this, I don’t blame them. I give this film a D-.

Viewer Comments
“largely misunderstood”… Mission to Mars” is a rather beautiful and wonderful film which appears to be largely misunderstood. Technically, I’ve not seen a more technically accurate film for events which are “to come” since no manned mission to Mars has been undertaken. The film, “Apollo 13” was very accurate for 1973, but what “could be” is another matter. Story Musgrave (astronaut and scientist) acted as technical advisor on this film (and makes a small cameo). The problem with “Mission to Mars” doesn’t lie with the film, but with what DePalma was trying to do with it. Kubricks “2001” was an abstract film which required a good deal of outside thinking/reading to fully understand. “Mission to Mars” is trying to be 2001 a little too hard. First, where are the classic “lift off” goose-bump sequences? There are none. Next there are not guns or sex. No “reaction of the world” or military Generals barking out insane commands. Largely, this film is NOTHING like the traditional Sci-Fi nonsense film. The first mission to Mars is largely a World project, controlled by a select few individuals (in this case a German speaking mission commander) which leads me to believe that this Mission could have been a secret mission… something which has to be discerned from study of the film content and isn’t explicitly spelled out for the audience. THERE IT IS: This movie is not spoon fed. Many have stated this film is “inane” and “illogical.” Sure, if you take everything at complete face value it’s not the linear Point-A to Point-B film. It requires you to think. No Think—No Enjoy. No Think—Script Must be Silly… Morals? Aside from Evolution theme, this movie reinforces Marriage, Family, Sacrifice, Hope, and Ingenuity. Morally this movie is light-years ahead of “Cider House Rules.” My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—S. Kaarup, age 40
Bad—real bad. Don’t waste your money. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I saw. Good effects; that’s it… My Ratings: [3/1]
—Adam Byers, age 17
“sloppy science”… Since going to “The Angry Red Planet” in 1959, I’ve devoured more Mars novels and fiction films than I can count; and (surprise!) in EVERY story where mankind reaches Mars, we find evidence of life there. Kids seeing “Mission to Mars” may reject the goofy storyline, but the film will reinforce the false idea that every educated person believes in evolution. Special creation is (at least) an equally valid theory of origins. Panspermia (the belief that Earth’s life came from another planet on either a meteor or a spaceship) isn’t a third choice; it just pushes the question of origins back from Earth to somewhere else. Some “creative evolutionists” believe life arose by creation, but say that the first life-form contained the information to give rise to all other forms (versions of this belief include thinking of the universe or the DNA code as God). “Mission to Mars” seems to teach a version of this idea, since the Martians predicted the structure of human DNA a billion years before we evolved. Also, the astronauts talk about a model of a tiny piece of human DNA as though it were a model of an almost-complete set of human chromosomes. Just sloppy science, or an implication that the whole is contained in every part? Many authorities admit that the major goal of the real-world push to explore Mars isn’t something practical like mining, but the search for life. An astronaut in Gregory Benford’s well-researched 1999 novel “The Martian Race” says that ever since evolution and long-age geology “killed God” in the mid-19th century, we’ve felt alone in the universe; and the Mars program is our attempt not to be alone any more. Think of the umpteen billions we could save on space exploration (and on the giant antenna arrays searching for extraterrestrial radio signals) if we’d just replace evolution with good science. As a science-degreed Bible-believer who accepts the six-day creation of Genesis, I read and watch Sci-fi for escapist entertainment (and to keep up with the latest propaganda), not to add meaning to my life. I’m complete in Jesus (Col. 2:9,10). “Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (1 Tim. 6:20 KJV) My Ratings: [2½/2½]
Brett Willis, age 49
“pathetic, improbable, laughable”… After seeing the movie teaser/trailer I was really excited about seeing this movie. My wife and I squeezed it into our schedule to see it on opening day. What a let down. I have enjoyed movies for a long time and at one point before I got saved seriously considered directing as a career… and very rarely have I ever seen a movie that I felt had so much potential and yet fell so far short. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals throughout most of the movie were spectacular… kudos to the special effects department… but, as has been hit on by other reviewers, the acting was pathetic, the story so improbable, and the whole portrayal of the alien was laughable. I think that the major flaws in this film lay were two-fold. First, they tried to fit far to much into the movie (and it barely reached the 2 hour mark by my watch; no where near the advertised 2 hr 45 min). Second, the script created characters with no humanity to them. They continualy defy human nature and reaction. So although most of the acting was pretty bad… and even the good jobs had horrifying dialogs. From a Christian perspective it was pretty tame. Sure, it presented evolution as the basis of creation, but the idea of life being sparked by alien DNA sent to Earth won’t let you take the theory seriously. Save your money. My Ratings: [2/1]
—Scott LeFebvre, age 30
“pretty good”… I had a free movie pass to see this movie and I thought it was pretty good. It only had one bad word in the movie. There’s only one scene at the beginning of the movie where people are killed and that’s all the killing in the movie. I’d recommend this movie because it has hardly any bad words and killing in the movie. And that’s hard to find in movies these days. The movie is only 1 hour and 45 mins. My Ratings: [3/3]
—Steve Maggard, age 37
a big let down… I have to agree with the reviewer on this movie. It was an overall waste of money. I, like the reviewer, had eargerly anticipated this science-fiction movie, only to be terribly let down by the ineffective acting and the absurd story line. The movie ended up being much more comical than it was intended to be. Unlike many good science fiction movies, this movie offered nothing to stretch the imagination of the viewer. Everything was very predictable. Perhaps we are getting to the point where science fiction cannot be any stranger than real life, so the screen plays are not able to stay a step ahead of the changing technology or even to keep up with it to push the envelope of imagination. I would recommend waiting for this one on video if you have to see it at all. My Ratings: [3/1]
—Colette, age 33
“a blasphemy”… A film that not only preaches Evolution and Darwinism, but tries to negate the idea of God in little Christian children by promoting the idea of God as some space alien is a travesty! And all the senseless killing at the beginning. My child threw up when he saw that guy getting his arms and legs ripped off by that space rocketship in the Martian sand. By my count, this film breaks 3 of the 10 commandments. My Ratings: [2/5]
—Thomas Anderson, age 52
presented Evolution as fact… I found this movie to be entertaining except for the last 20 mintues. I was shocked with their theory that Earth was seeded by aliens and that evolution was a fact. There were some unanswered questions as to who created Earth and man. I felt this movie was portraying evolution as a very strong possibility. For that reason I will not recommend this movie to my friends. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Karen Innes, age 59
really, really bad… Please, please, please avoid this movie at all costs! If you saw the trailers and thought this movie might be good, forget what you saw. The few scenes in the trailers are the ONLY ones in the film that are even remotely interesting, and when viewed in context, they become as laughable as the rest. This film is so bad you will be laughing (along with everyone else in the theater) all the way through, not because it’s funny, but just to offset the shame you feel in being suckered into paying money to see this garbage. This film should be thrown away and we should all pretend it was never made. It really is that bad. Don’t see it. My Ratings: [3/1]
—Timothy Blaisdell, age 36
“Save your money!”… This is one of the poorest sci-fi movies to come out recently. The acting was poor; the writing of the plot, including useless side stories, worse; and the cast line up down right dissappointing. Gary Sinise, the star of the film, had so much make up on in many scenes (eye liner and lipstick) that he looked as if he should be selling for maybelline. The best scenes of the movie are seen in the trailers and those occur, for the most part, in the first few minutes of mars. My Ratings: [2/1]
—Kahuna, age 32
recommended… I recommend “Mission To Mars,” especially if one is looking for sci-fi entertainment without dark or violent material. Unlike most sci-fi films which focus on horror and disturbing themes, “Mission to Mars” is like a modern day “2001 Space Odyssey” or “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.” This is a space journey, not a space slaughter, and I think it succeeds in that style. The special effects are superb, and the movie held my interest to the end. Okay, the evolutionary point is cheesy, but from a Christian point of view, cheesy evolution is just fine. The calm acting of the astronauts during intense situations made sense to me—isn’t this exactly the nature one would expect of them? “Mission To Mars” is not desensitizing. Compared to say the grotesque “X-Files” film, “Mission To Mars” lacks blood and gore, and proceeds as a space drama, including fine interactions between the married couple on board. It’s almost benign enough for childrens’ viewing. If I were to compare “Mission To Mars” to fairly recent films, I’d say it is much better than the completely cheesy “Armageddon” and comes across like “Deep Impact” on Mars. I wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Todd Adams, age 32
Although I am not religious at all, I do have to agree with most others that this film was pretty bad and showed things such as evolution as true, while showing no form of religion at all. The story was shaky, acting bad, and no real breakthrough stuff. The only thing holding the movie up were some pretty good special effects, but you need more than that to make a good movie. Look at “Casablanca”, and see how many special effects they had. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Aaron C., age 18
Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, that despite what would be erroneously labeled “new age” suggestions as to the origins of life on Earth, no one who sees “Mission to Mars” will adhere to anything it has to say. My Ratings: [3/1]
—Joe Foster, age 21, non-Christian
Dreadful plot. Inane script. Silly, arbitrary (and often flat-out wrong) application of science. Doubly awful because I had been looking forward to seeing the film. I understand there will be another “Mars” movie later this year. Let’s hope it scores a “Bug’s Life” compared to “Mission to Mars” “Antz.” My Ratings: [2½/1]
—Len, age 28, non-Christian