The first of two Mars movies to hit theaters in the year 2000 is Mission to Mars, a blend of Contact, 2001, and The Abyss.Mission takes us on a journey to the red planet as a crew of four try to rescue the previous crew who mysteriously lost contact nearly six months prior. The previous crew did not die happily.
Mission to Mars has some major star power, namely Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, and Don Cheadle. Unfortunately, Gary Sinise and especially Tim Robbins do not seem to find their roles, even though they are exceptional actors. Their dialogue comes off weak and unrealistic, and Robbins is particularly rough. Along for the ride is Jerry O'Connell, who supplies the comic relief that every sci-fi tends to have these days.
Surprisingly, though, Mission to Mars is not like sci-fi movies these days. It is more like classic science-fiction, where not all aliens are evil, where there is a secret beyond blowing aliens out of the stars, and where there is no military involvement. In fact, this is one of the most realistic sci-fi movies I have seen, up until a point. The Martian landscapes look incredibly realistic, and so do the space scenes. There are a couple scenes, though, especially when the movie attempts to show weightlessness, that suffer graphically (but the segment where the characters are walking along the rotating, orbital section of the trip is extremely catchy).
The movie is also incredibly suspenseful, up to a point. The strange thing is is that there is no fast action in the entire movie, except for maybe the near-opening segment where the astronauts die (as seen in the previews). A lot of the action takes place in space, where one cannot move that fast (relatively). Still, a great sense of tension is made with the near-death experiences that the astronauts face as they try to make it to Mars.
Unfortunately, every movie has a downfall, and Mission to Mars has a big one. It opens up a little slowly but later on it is realized that the introduction was needed for characterization. That is not the problem. The rest of the movie is excellent - incredibly excellent - up until a point. And that point is the moment where they meet the alien. Not only does the alien look incredibly cheesy and fake, the whole evolutionary scale that is played out also looks fake. And then the movie just seems to stop without any real conclusion, nor do the astronauts really seem to comprehend that they have just met an alien. It is almost like the screenwriter ran out of things to say, and that the graphic designers suddenly decided to call it quits all at once.
Nevertheless, Mission to Mars is an exciting film, but it is not for everyone. People who are fans of the older style of science-fiction, where people aren't blasting up aliens left and right, will probably love this film (although there are a few gory parts), and people who are used to aliens duking it out with humans might not find this film as attractive, and will be extremely disappointed by the ending.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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