Mission to Mars

The name Mission to Mars immediately brings up one of the lesser rides (now, thankfully gone) at Disneyland. In it, people sit around a small screen on the floor and ceiling and the seats inflate and deflate to simulate turbulence. Nothing like old time special effects. In addition, M2M is the name of another of the myriad kiddie bands that pervade pop radio today. That, and in the new Hollywood fashion, another Mars-themed movie, Red Planet, is coming soon, lead to a potentially horrible movie gone awry in Mission to Mars. Thankfully, the movie is not that bad, but it does seem to echo other, better movies.

The only thing to go awry (besides the latter part of the script) is the first manned mission to Mars. A team led by Luke Graham (Don Cheadle, Bulworth, Out of Sight) encounters what looks like water. When they go to investigate, something strange happens, and no one is heard from again. A rescue team led by Woody Blake (Tim Robbins, Arlington Road, Nothing to Lose) goes to Mars to recover any survivors. With Blake are his wife Terri Fisher (Connie Nielsen, Gladiator, Permanent Midnight), Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell, Body Shots, NBC's The Sixties), and Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise, The Green Mile, Reindeer Games). McConnell was to be the original mission head, but the death of his wife left him reeling, and he dropped out of the astronaut program. Blake persuades NASA (this is the first time NASA allowed its logo in a film) to allow McConnell to come on the mission, after all, he is the only one who can do it.

Telling anymore of the story would give away any of the "secrets" in the script by Lowell Cannon, Jim and John Thomas (Predator), and Graham Yost (Broken Arrow, Hard Rain). Not that there's anything to give away. First of all, the tag lines give away the fact that life began on Mars, instead of Earth. Second, any fan of science fiction television, books, or comics, or some New Age theories can see what is coming a mile away. Plus, even with four writers, all the characters seem hollow and devoid of real emotion. The death of McConnell's wife is mentioned but never seems to affect him. It is an attempt to develop a character that is never fully carried through. The movie begins well, but everything slowly dribbles to a crawl. The remainder of Mission to Mars hobbles forward as if crippled.

Mission to Mars is the latest effort from Brian de Palma (Snake Eyes), and is sure to draw comparisons to one of his recent films, Mission Impossible. The latter was criticized as convoluted but flashy, and the same can be said of Mission to Mars. It is definitely a great looking film. Led by Dream Quest Images and Hoyt Yeatman, the same team behind the effects of The Abyss and Mighty Joe Young, Mission to Mars is enjoyable eye candy. Nothing new or innovative is here, but everything here is a little better than in most movies. The surface of Mars looks decent enough, but the best effects are in space, on the way to Mars. The continuously twisting camera will be sure to disturb easily queasy viewers, but the effect is similar to an IMAX movie. Sadly, these effects are not that memorable, and will fade quickly after viewing, along with the rest of the movie.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG for sci-fi violence and mild language.

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