Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Val Kilmer, Benjamin Bratt, Carrie-Anne Moss, Simon Baker, Tom Sizemore|
|Producer:||Bruce Berman, Jorge Saralegui, Mark Canton|
Though it’s a totally different storyline, “Red Planet” looks and feels like the earlier 2000 release “Mission to Mars”. The tinting of the Martian surface and sky is the same; and there’s crew conflict, violence, death, and a Martian Creature. (How many Mars Sci-Fi films DON’T have a Creature?) The science (or lack thereof) and the presentation of Politically Correct ideas are similar.
The year is 2057. Earth is dying from human overpopulation and pollution, and we’ve been “terraforming” Mars for about thirty years. We nuked the Martian icecaps to release Carbon Dioxide and create a Greenhouse Effect; then we introduced algae to generate oxygen for eventual human migration. Everything went smoothly, until the algae suddenly disappeared! So the first manned Mars flight is sent to investigate. Commander Bowman’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) crew consists of science officer Chantilas (Terence Stamp); pilot Santen (Benjamin Bratt); geneticist/bioengineer Burchenal (Tom Sizemore); terraformer Pettengil (Simon Baker) and mechanical engineer Gallagher (Val Kilmer); plus a karate-chopping, doglike robot called AMEE. Bowman refers to scientist-turned-philosopher Chantilas, who initiates discussions about God, as the “soul of the crew.”
Danger comes from several sources: a solar flare; equipment failures; infighting among the crew; cross-wired AMEE going into “military mode” against them; and of course the Creature. The Creature’s origin isn’t explained. Did it “evolve” overnight? Did it lie dormant for millions of years, just waiting for the return of food and oxygen?
Considering the story—these are the first humans to set foot on Mars, and their mission’s success determines the future of mankind—the acting and direction seem flat and unemotional. The most interesting character, Chantilas, is underdeveloped. Just once, I’d like to see a scientifically accurate film—a lifeless Mars instead of a lifeless crew.
Content: There’s quite a bit of profanity, including one use of f* accompanied by “the bird.” We get side-view glimpses of Bowman as she showers, and Gallagher gets a full frontal view (the two of them carry on a shipboard flirtation, but nothing comes of it during the film). There’s alcohol use, fighting, and bad attitudes. Several crewmembers are killed off.
Bad science (partial list): Even with the atmosphere buildup, the Martian day and night surface temperatures should be harsher than shown. The scene of the ship crash-landing could have been run in slo-mo to simulate Mars gravity (one-third that of Earth), but it wasn’t; nor was there any extra spring in the crew’s step. The only special effect showing low-grav was a shot of three men making the highest and longest arcs of their lives as they urinated. There’s one Martian surface shot, a few seconds long, which shows Earth’s moon in the sky (the image is too large, and too regular in shape, to pass for Phobos).
Genesis 1:28, God’s first recorded command to mankind, tells us to multiply and fill the Earth, subdue (alter) it, and rule over all other creatures. Radical environmentalism challenges every part of that commandment. The idea of “terraforming” is a strange combination of sentiments from both camps; after messing up the Earth, we proceed to subdue another planet as well.
I’ve been going to Mars movies since 1959. This isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but not the best either. Besides the expected Humanist content, the film just isn’t a “grabber.” Well, maybe next year.