Mars has always been the subject of science fiction, and twice it has been in 2000. The first movie was Mission to Mars, the second being Red Planet. Mission to Mars was a 2001-esque "thriller" that I for the most part liked but mostly everyone else hated. And now, looking back, I think that I would bash Mission to Mars if I saw it again. Either way, Red Planet is the current Mars movie, and it is trying to be everything that Mission to Mars wasn't. It fails. Miserably.
The cast includes several recognizable stars, including Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss. Obviously the paychecks were more important than the script because they chose a bad movie to be in. I guess they figure that bad sci-fi movies get thrown from people's minds pretty quickly and that they can recover easily. Out of the three main characters, I was most impressed with Carrie-Anne Moss, who is much sexier here than she was in The Matrix, but is also just as strong. She plays a similar character to that in the extremely popular sci-fi film, and she also pulls off her lines pretty well. Maybe that is because she gets the most serious lines out of the whole crew. Tom Sizemore, who is a very respectable actor, definitely doesn't look his best, and Val Kilmer, who isn't the best actor in the world but can still do a good job, doesn't even seem to be trying. Is it because they realize that the script is just hopeless, or just that they don't think people notice substance in graphically-enhanced sci-fi films?
The script and movie are working on two different lines, and that is one of the biggest problems. The movie is trying to be serious and cunning, but the script is playing like a cheesy summer flick with bad jokes. The astronauts aren't even close to being realistic, as they hardly act like professionals. They use lab stuff for making vodka, make jokes about having sex with their superior, and don't seem to know the first thing about Mars. One of the astronauts kills the other one and then hides it the rest of the movie.
And there are so many flaws and awkward storylines going on. The astronauts can breathe on Mars and yet the story never really makes that a major part of the story. The astronauts talk about it a little bit and the reasoning is explained, but so concisely and so quickly that it just seems like the movie wanted to move on to "more important" things. Second, the main bad guy of the film is the robot Amee, who, after the crash, is put into "military mode". Why is this? Why does this robot have military encoding to begin with? For the sake of the story. The robot is a trained killing machine and when it moves in to kill, it just looks hilariously stupid. The robot's hands spin and it looks like it is going to do a karate chop. The main feature of the film should not look cheesy.
In fact, the whole movie is cheesy. Red Planet plays like a bad episode of "Lost in Space". The cheesy dialogue starts everything out, but everything else is just so thoughtless it's hard to imagine that Warner Brothers put this much money into it. Every event in the movie is just stupid.
Worst of all, not once did I feel involved in the movie. From the first minute to the last I didn't care at all about the characters. I knew in the first five minutes which ones would die and which ones would survive. There are no twists. The characters aren't very innovating or entertaining. The suspense is almost non-existent, and several people were snickering during the supposedly serious parts. The events that should have had me on the edge of my seat made me yawn.
Another thing that pissed me off was how emotionless the astronauts were. Several times throughout the film an astronaut says, "Leave me behind." The other astronauts basically say, "OK. Bye."
At least Mission to Mars attempted to be realistic, to have intuitive characters, and have a memorable storyline. It may not have been a very good movie but Red Planet is worse.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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