on March 20, 2002
15 years from now, people are going to pick up this movie and wonder why so many people thought it was bad--there's actually very little wrong with it: memorable performances from Sizemore, Stamp and Kilmer, better science than the average Hollywood flick, a nifty mystery, a logical triumph of man over machine (aren't we all a little tired of omnipotent, indestructible robots?), and crisp suspense as the astronauts race the clock to escape the tightening noose of a mission gone awry.
It was promoted as a SF/Horror flick similar to ALIEN, and it really isn't--it's more like Alfred Hitchcock directing THE RIGHT STUFF.
All the SF movie fans I know tend to like byzantine tales, historic in scope, filled with quirky characters roaming rich new landscapes, so this simple tale of a small group of men trying to escape a desolate red planet within a short span of hours might not be rich enough for them. (The SF fanboys won't like it because Carrie-Anne Moss's shower scene is too short and doesn't show enough...er...Moss.)
It's definitely worth a rental, but you won't want to own it unless you're a suspense fan that revels more in how a film is put together than in how it turns out.
on April 26, 2004
I am a SF junkie and will watch just about anything - even if I don't like it. Red Planet - With Carrie Moss, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore and Terrance Stamp - isn't in that category but it teeters at times.
The special effects are not bad.
The science IS bad, and inconsistant, but since this is a movie and not a documentary, so I suppose that's allowable.
I would have loved to see more Terrance Stamp.
The relationships between the crew are not well explained and take unexpected turns here and there. The flashback- oh yeah - this happened - scene to explain the Kilmer-Moss relationship irritated me. Why on earth (or Mars) not show it as it happened - then we might all understand the situation. At times, I was wondering "Why are they acting like this?"
Not bad - SF fans will still like it - keep expectations low.
on October 30, 2003
With over-population and pollution threatening the future of the human race by the middle of the 21st century, NASA turns to Mars as a possible avenue for colonization. (Robots sent ahead build Hab-1, a condo for the crew on Mars; they also sprinkle lakes of algae meant to convert Mars's CO2 atmosphere into breathable oxygen). Led by the ultra-competent Commander Bowman (Carrie Moss), and including a philospoher (Terrence Stamp), the hot-shot (Ben Bratt), the existentialist geneticist (Tom Sizemore) and a terra-former named Pettengill (Simon Baker) whose selfishness borders on paranoia, the team nears Mars full of anticipation. The only crewman not quite awed by the prospect if Gallagher (Kilmer) the wisecracking janitor. When a gamma-energy burst cripples the ship before it can make a planned landing, the crew (sans Moss) escape and make landfall (Mars-fall, I guess) before they've had time to scout the planet from orbit. Big mistake - something has wrecked their habitat, stranding the team on Mars. With the mothership barely able to do more than either fall-out of orbit or head for home, Kilmer and crew are forced to rely on each other, with little more to do than watch the oxygen levels of their spacesuits drop. Surprise - they find the Martian atmosphere now loaded with oxygen - condemning them to death by starvation instead of asphyxiation. Also, they must now guard against AMEE, their survey robot run amok. A CGI wonder, AMEE morphs between different predatory poses - human and panther. AMEE was actually designed for the military - and a hard landing on the planet only brings up her darker side. On the team's own side (barely evening out the odds) are a few surprises - mostly involving salvaging barely usable technology from the few probes that mankind successfully landed on Mars.
This is a pretty good film - Val Kilmer plays a surprisingly likeable guy, though the film is pretty much paint-by numbers. There aren't that many surprises here (like the order in which the team members die off). The film actually does less to surprise than simply suspend your belief (you'd think that with the money they'd spent on the mission and its importance for the survival of humanity, the planners would have screened out nut-jobs like Pettengill; with all their high-tech, none of the team detect oxygen until they crack their visors and find out they can breathe). It would have been cool to expand on the teams use of all that old earth-junk, but the script was obviously hobbled by the fact that so few missions actually made it to Mars (whether you're counting in metric or otherwise, the number is pretty small). Mars itself gets too little exposure in the script - with the planet approximating little more than a big desert with harsh weather - even though the red planet has much to offer. (Oxygen aside, what about the missing ozone layer that's supposed to shield our heroes from deadly UV rays? Even an oxygen-rich atmosphere means little when the atmospheric pressure at sea-level is thinner than what you'd get half a mile over Mt. Everest.) The flick works on its stars, mainly Kilmer, but also Carrie Moss and especially Tom Sizemore playing (again) the tough but tender no. 2 man (seen in "Private Ryan".) Definitely good for a Saturday night rental around February, when there's nothing spectacular enough to spend real money at the Multiplex.
on September 14, 2003
I can't really find any problems to hate this movie. Let's face it, you can't expect every movie to be the Lord of the Rings. You know there are tons of movies, some of which aren't as popular as others but are still alright movies. Why watch these movies? Because they are entertaining. This movie is entertaining. I like movies that entertain me and don't try to be the number one flick of the year or all time for that matter.
Val Kilmer is a great actor, I love all his movies, and this movie is no exception. He plays a pretty cool mechanic. I dislike Carrie slightly in this movie because of her stupid journal entry thingies. You know, "Gallagher was the mechanic, Jimbo was the weapons blah blah blah." Get on with it. After the beggining, and the stupid journal entry at the end, I like the movie. I saw it in theatres when it came out, and it has a cool atmosphere. I was slightly bored because I had homework to do, but the movie was still enjoyable. The robot is awesome. It flips and ... does stuff with a hover thingy, and even employs some crazy tactics. The bugs are fine, and the plot is great. "No it isn't. Mdizzio." Yes it is man, it is great. There is oxygen on a planet, some guys were going down to like check the colonization or something, i forget. But still, they were there for a reason, they found out there was no algae, and soon the plot comes down on you. Killer robot, killer firefly-bees, a spaceship, and a little space-shiperooni. I like the special effects.
If I watched it a third time, I would still be slightly intrested because I wasn't paying too much attention to the movie, but I still like it. In the dark with nothing to do but watching Red Planet would be cool. The atmosphere, combined with great special effects really makes the movie worth-while. Stop saying it is a "B" movie, because it is a pretty good movie, and I don't really think anyone could justify that it was a bad movie. Seriously though, what is bad about it.
on February 20, 2003
I think Red Planet is a true victim of bad marketing. When making up the (very few) trailers and tv spots for this movie, Warner Bros. decided to make it seem like some sort of action packed thrill ride. Even the tagline (something like "They didn't find life on Mars. It found them." Oh no! Scary!) suggests a similar movie to Scott's Alien. Since there was very little advertisement for the film (at least where I come from), plus the fact that it had to contend with Charlie's Angels and The Grinch, very few people actually saw the theatrical release, and those who did were going in with the preconceived Alien notion. While there are aliens in the film, they aren't what you'd expect and they only have a minor role. Roger Ebert, however (who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars) said it was one of the most memorable alien encounters he'd seen in years. I think he's right. Yes, there are mistakes in the film, but that's why it's called science-FICTION. The acting is pretty good, Carrie-Anne Moss being the standout, with Tom Sizemore a close second. The movie is funny, has its fair share of action, and is never dull. The cinematography is stunning and the soundtrack is one of the best I've heard in any movie in any genre. No, the movie is not perfect and it could have done a few things better, but it is very, very, VERY far from being a bad film. Instead of expecting an Alien, Starship Troopers, Pitch Black type of movie, people should go in thinking more along the lines of a big-budget cheesy B-movie and just enjoy the ride. Because what a ride it is.
And as a little sidenote, since I've seen this written several times, there's no more nudity in this movie than there is in your typical TV shampoo commercial.
on December 31, 2002
This movie had a good cast, lots of resources, good production design, and a pretty convincing depiction of Mars. It could also have been a good movie if a little intelligence had been devoted to the script. Instead, the scientific illiteracy of the thing renders it an annoying joke. Take, for example, the "nematodes" (which are worms, by the way, not insects). The explanation for the rich Martian atmosphere is that the "nematodes" are eating algae and somehow "making oxygen". Well, guess what...it's plants and algae that "make oxygen"...eating it in order to make O2 by some other process is absurd and meaningless. Also, the state of the Martian atmosphere comes as a surprise to the explorers, yet somehow the ships's sensors are able to measure the atmospheric pressure as "865 millibars"...which is nearly the normal pressure on Earth...which should have been a clue that something odd was going on. Dramatically, the extraneous addition of the killer robot is merely synthetic "excitement" added to try to strenghten a lousy script. What a waste of effort to produce a movie that has already been pretty much forgotten.
on August 14, 2002
It's 2024, or 2036 or 2096 - or whenever it is - and we've "killed the planet earth" (We've done that already by the way. Summers aren't what they used to be.) Apparently we have no option but to bombard the surface of Mars with moss and hope it grows so we can next go and kill Mars. Naturally, our botanical experiments are a huge success and in no time at all, we've converted a lifeless space-rock into Bali. The next thing we've got to do is overcome radiation, gravity, reality, acting and direction and propel five Americans and an ageing Englishman across the cosmos to see how fast we can set up shop on our nearest neighbour. Naturally, our little voyage is a catastrophe. The space philosopher-cum-senior citizen played by Terence Stamp dies in the opening twenty minutes, ostensibly of a spleen injury, but one suspects of embarrassment. A robot called AMEE, created by the American military to assist matters falls on its head and decides to murder the whole crew. The 'craft' is hit by a solar flare and catches fire. The ground party land miles from their destination and run out of oxygen ten minutes after discovering that their home-from-home has been ravaged by martian cockroaches. Oh - and by the way - you can breathe on Mars. It has to do with the moss. And the cockroaches. Or something. I could go on - but I won't. Lacking in every department, though an impressive advertisement for Arizona.
on June 3, 2002
In 2057, our planet is dying, choking on man made pollution (and you thought recycling your soda cans would help). A misfit ragtag crew is sent to Mars. We have been sending unmanned probes there in the past. These probes have been depositing algae on the planet, which expels oxygen and will allow man to breathe.
The crew consists of five actors and Carrie-Anne Moss. Moss opens the film with some narration introducing the crew and talking of their differences. Except for Terence Stamp, who is old and thereby gets the thankless role of sexless voice of reason, all the other guys are chauvinist jerks. Val Kilmer, Benjamin Bratt, Tom Sizemore, and Simon Baker all have long complicated titles, but really do not do anything in the film to differentiate themselves from each other. They do lust after Moss and can throw out a lame one liner with the best of them.
Things go wrong as soon as their ship gets to the red planet. A space storm renders the ship useless. The guys are sent down to the surface and find no algae. The crew begins to die one by one. Stamp is dispatched before he can convert everyone else's faith from science to something cosmically bigger in the universe. Baker makes an oopsy and pushes Bratt off a cliff. A malfunctioning robot is also along for the ride, deciding to take out the crew for wanting to use it for spare parts. The planet station they were to use when they got down to the surface is destroyed by unseen forces, possibly another life form. Finally, how come everyone can breathe when all the algae is missing?
You might be thinking: cool; a killer robot, a flipped out murdering scientist, alien life forms, and a cosmic being that may or may not be watching over the crew. Throw in Moss back on the ship trying to hold everything together and this is going to be one suspense filled, action packed ride...negative.
As the film progresses, and more of the crew is dispatched, I came to the conclusion that three or four plotlines were fighting for my attention. None were succeeding in holding it. You could make a film that stands alone on any of the robot/psycho/alien villains, yet when thrown together they did not yield exciting chaos but inattention to each individual plot thread.
The cast is very capable, pulling off lots of scientific jargon and rewiring of impossibly damaged equipment without a hitch, but so much more is left up in the air, and some characters acknowledge that! How do the life forms make oxygen? Don't know. How is an indestructible robot so easily dispatched? Don't know. How is Kilmer able to survive huge explosions that seem on the same scale as Nevada desert nuclear plumes of the 1950's? Don't know. Why is Terence Stamp in this picture? Don't know. Stamp's little quiet philosophical conversations amount to absolutely nothing, as God does not swoop in at any point here to save the boys (at least in an obvious way). Throw in the dull romance between Moss and Kilmer, and you have some definite script problems.
While the special effects are lovely and a wonder to look at, they are set to a Graeme Revell musical score that is equally schizophrenic. At some points, I heard the old theme to "Star Trek," at other points, a tabernacle choir takes us through the action. The film makers could not make up their minds, and neither could Revell.
In the end, "Red Planet," like its competitor "Mission to Mars," is pretty to look at and shows technical triumph. The film makers seemed to get the future right, but they forgot to serve the base human emotions of excitement at the proceedings and caring for the characters. I do not recommend this angry "Red Planet."
This is rated (PG13) for physical violence, some gore, profanity, brief female nudity, and some sexual references.
on May 16, 2002
Red Planet could have been much more; it had a great cast. It's a cool movie, but don't expect any aliens. Instead, you have a very cool looking robot that goes on a rampage and starts hunting down the men stranded on Mars.
When I say it could have been much more, for instance Val Kilmer and Carrie Anne Moss have great chemistry, but they don't have enough scenes together to really make something out of it. Plus, everyone seems too calm, considering they're being hunted by a badass robot; they seem more concerned about what their next conversation should be. There's too much talking and not enough action.
Still though, it is a lot better than Mission To Mars, which could be pretty painful to sit through at times. Val Kilmer's wit is a lot better than listening to Gary Sinise grieving over his dead wife throughout the whole movie. Plus it doesn't have the corny B-Movie ending that Mission To Mars has either. Red Planet isn't really anything special but I wouldn't call it bad either because it's not.
Everybody knows to ask me questions about Science when we are playing Trivial Pursuit. After all, I never even took biology, let alone chemistry or physics, in high school. But even little old ignorant me knows that there are some major mistakes that needed to be corrupted in "Red Planet," a film which will make thousands of viewers stop laughing at 1950's science fiction movies about traveling to distant planets. No, I will not start ticking them off for you, simply because "Red Planet" is one of those incredibly bad movies that you can still have fun watching, although it is certainly not the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" for the 2001 generation.
Of course, you do not need to know anything about hard science to find the flaws in this film. As soon as you find that Carrie-Anne Moss is the space babe in charge of the mission and Val Kilmer is the guy she really does not want to have along, the possibilities of how bad things can get become painfully apparent. Then there is the cute little navigation robot that goes big time bad just to make things even worse and add some splatter flick elements to the mix. Add to this the fact that the screenwriters never met a coincidence they did not like and you have to believe that Terrence Stamp's character made up that bit about the ruptured spleen just to get out of this film as quick as possible.
Now, I am open to the possibility that there are those who will actually like this film as a piece of "serious" science fiction, and I mean besides the producers of this film. My suggestion would be to go for the obvious double-feature, screening "Red Planet" and "Mission to Mars" back-to-back and decide for yourself which is the more fantastic (i.e., unbelievable) science fiction film. Not since "Babe" and "Gordy" came out at the same time have we been given the chance to split the film viewing audience into such clearly divided sides. Remember to make lots of popcorn so you have something to do other than yell "Oh, give me a break!" at the screen over and over again.