Red Planet

Warner Bros. delayed the release of Red Planet so that audience would forget Mission to Mars and want to see a Mars movie again. Mission to Mars was a different movie; it tried to be profound and draw some grand conclusions. Red Planet is much more along the lines of a standard formulaic action movie. Let's review the basic elements present: large expendable cast rife with artificial tension, random, plotwise unnecessary scene of partial female nudity, and a monster who hunts down the cast one by one.

It is about fifty years from now, and the Earth is overcrowded. Scientists melted the Martian polar ice caps and bombarded the planet with algae, hoping to create an oxygen rich atmosphere. Now, a crew is going to Mars to see the results. A massive solar flare hits the ship, forcing all of the crew to abandon ship except for Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix, Chocolat), commander of the mission. She gets the unenviable task of spending the rest of the movie alone in the ship attempting repairs. The rest of the crew consists of (with their trait that distinguishes them from each other) Gallagher (Val Kilmer, At First Sight, The Prince of Egypt), maintenance; Burchenal (Tom Sizemore, Bringing Out the Dead, Play It To the Bone), greedy civilian scientist; Santen (Benjamin Bratt, The Next Best Thing, Miss Congeniality), headstrong pilot; Pettengil (Simon Baker, Ride With the Devil, Sunset Strip), nervous guy; and Chantilas (Terrence Stamp, The Limey, Bowfinger), older, wiser philosopher. They are up against AMEE (Autonomous Mapping Evaluation and Evasion), a military robot navigational aid. AMEE also happens to be able to switch to a kill mode, which happens when the crew crashes onto the surface.

Once on Mars, the crew discovers that all the algae is gone, and there is a breathable atmosphere. Sadly, this subplot, and the main plot, have a dull ending courtesy of Chuck Pfarrer (The Jackal) and Jonathan Lemkin (The Devil's Advocate). The dialogue is a little better than most action movies, but still feels forced and stilted. In order for Red Planet to succeed, Kilmer needs to carry it. Sadly, his character has little to no personality, and combined with Kilmer stoicism, makes him boring to watch. The movie degenerates into the typical chase movie, with nothing compelling enough to make it worth watching. Of course, there is the typical 2001 rip-off, complete with classical music. The one nice thing about Red Planet is the special effects. The CGI spaceships look decent. Outdoor filming took place in Australia and Jordan, and the effect is exactly what director Antony Hoffman could want. The terrain is bleak and foreboding; desert stretching on for miles. It looks like it actually could be Mars. Realism is also a good thing to strive for, and the suits and consoles look complicated enough to possibly be real. In the end, the decision to delay the release of Red Planet will probably make no difference at all. It's not a great movie, and nothing can change that.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief nudity, and language.

Back to Movies