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on March 8, 2008
Did any of you pay attention to the movie that you were watching? Or were you doing something while this was playing in the background? I am just trying to address some of the problems that people seem to have with this movie that I think are not real problems. First, one reviewer wrote that is unbelievable that the characters would be able to walk around without helmets on the surface of Mars. NEWSFLASH, the characters themselves explain how this is possible, and within the first 20 minutes no less. Second, another reviewer said the aliens don't even look like aliens. That is because they are not aliens. The Ghosts that the title refer to posses the humans that are colonizing the planet. That is why they look human, cause they ARE. Third, the dialogue has been commented on in more than a few reviews and while it is cheesy it is not like this is Shakesphere. It is about a group of police officers who are going to place that none of them want to be. Of course they are going to sound irritated, wouldn't you?

I would just like to say before i finish that the next time you review a movie please watch it and at least try to pay attention.
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on June 27, 2004
It's John Carpenter, so what does everyone expect? I know what I expected, and "Ghosts of Mars" pretty much delivered. Thudding sound track, B-movie dialogue, heads on stakes, "Road Warrior" like zanies with metal sticking out of their faces stalking the "good" guys. Bring on the popcorn. Then there's a humorous twist. The "guys" in this future world live in a Matriarchy. Guys make the coffee, defer to the women, but also are told to deal with mechanical problems when they arise. (Well, at least the "breeder" - Jason Statham as Jericho - does.) Carpenter works all kinds of little jokes into the script on this wrinkle alone. Natasha Henstridge as the tough cop hero, and Ice Cube, as the con hero, are serviceable - and they know when to shoot, kick, and punch. And that's all that's needed here. I don't know who the main Martian is (he looks like Marilyn Manson in Kabuki), but he's perfect! Four stars for operating well within genre.
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on March 8, 2004
Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)
Man, was everyone down on this movie or what? Come on, folks. This wasn't great art, and it wasn't meant to be. It's simple turn-your-brain-off fun that follows the formula of most of John Carpenter's earlier flicks to every dotted I and crossed T. And while that seems to be exactly what had the fans howling in the aisles, please, folks, help me out here.
Okay, so all the guns exist today even though it's in the future. (Escape from New York, anyone?) The bad guys look a lot more like the guys from GWAR than they do actual bad guys. (Vampires, They Live, erm, the crazies from Escape from New York.) The action runs a very taut line between not gory enough and ludicrously faked. (Escape from New York-- are you sensing a pattern here?) So what? Everyone overlooked it twenty years ago.
The basic idea is that a team of space marines has to go get a prisoner, Desolation Jones (Ice Cube of Trespass and Friday fame), from a remote outpost and take him back to HQ to stand trial. Problem is, when they get there, they found out a whole lot of crimes matching the ones he's supposed to have committed have happened while he was in his holding cell. So the team, headed up by a drug-addled Lieutenant (Natasha McElhone), her commander (Pam Grier), and their new officer, an overly cocky and wildly oversexed Sergeant (Jason Statham, best known for his Guy Ritchie films) figure there's something nasty going on, and have to figure out what it is and how to stop it before the train, which has gone on to make a few more stops, gets back.
No, you're not going to find great acting, the plot's been done before, and, well, it's about as silly as can be. But folks, that's pretty much what John Carpenter has always been about, from Dark Star till the present day. Some of his movies forget to be humorous, some of them forget to be scary, some of them are just sci-fi action pictures. That's what this one is. Things blow up, the bad guys chase the good guys, things blow up, people bond, things blow up, you get the idea. Turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. ** ½
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on March 16, 2004
Yeah, everyone's whining about Ghosts Of Mars. Everyone's pretty much given up on John Carpenter. I admire Carpenter for making the films he wants to and not succumbing to whatever trendiness is expected of horror directors. Wes may be hip wit da teens, but John does what he wants to, even if you think it's lame. Ghosts Of Mars isn't his finest hour, it's not even all that great, but it's Carpenter. This is the kind of film Carpenter has always made. He's never admitted to being more than a B film director and he chooses to be such. After Starman, he coulda been in the big time, but chose his own independent Prince Of Darkness over the Hollywood machine. Ghosts Of Mars would have had more critical and fan praise if it were released in the mid eighties. It wouldn't have seemed so cliched. Personally I admire him for making such a film, passe as it may seem. If I were you I'd check it out. Just don't be expecting some sci-fi extravaganza(which I think everyone was expecting), expect cheesy B movie thrills.
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on February 6, 2002
I have been a huge fan of writer/director John Carpenter for years. From his humble beginnings with "Assault on Precinct 13" through "Halloween," "The Thing," "Starman" and up to his underrated but superb "In the Mouth of Madness," his hip, darkly comedic, visually strong anti-hero tributes are unique to the multiple genres (sci-fi, horror, suspense) he weaves in and out of like some demented kid in a celluloid candy store.
After seeing "Ghosts of Mars," however, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps Mr. Carpenter should consider hanging up his filmmaking guns. Derivative, clunkly and laughably bad, "Ghosts of Mars" combines elements of the already-mentioned "Assault..," with "Escape From New York," "Dawn of the Dead," "Vampires," and, of course, "Rio Bravo." But it lacks the style or wit of any of those mentioned films.
Quite simply, "Ghosts of Mars" rivals "Big Trouble in Little China" as being the worst Carpenter film ever made. The problems, almost too many to mention, include multiple flashbacks within flashbacks, completely destroying any momentum the film may have had; the casting of bland beefcake in pivotal roles (slowly becoming a Carpenter trademark); a story so predictable as to be excrutiatingly dull; and an infantile comic book mentality.
Mars miners discover tomb of planet's former inhabitants which seems to possess ghosts. These alien spirits possess the planet inhabitants turning them into bloodthirsty killers with a thing for body piercing. Possessed folks eventually surround a motley crew made up of criminals, policemen and Pam Grier. Motley crew has to fight for their lives (mainly with machine guns and dynamite) to make it back to train. Did I miss anything?
I used to think John Carpenter was a genius. After "Ghosts of Mars," a thick-witted though admittedly stylish flick with several Carpenter trademarks, I have decided it is time to accept the fact that his most influential and groundbreaking work was left behind him long ago. Today we are left with the ghost of what Carpenter once was.
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on August 14, 2003
There should be no talk of B Movie status with Ghosts of Mars. This is an A movie through and through. Where can I start. Well good acting makes movies, so how about the star studded cast. Ghosts has some of the most underrated stars working in Hollywood today. Natasha Hendsrick shows us every nuance of her character, from the authoratative leader she is forced to become to her scared iner-self which has to rely on drugs as a crutch to compensate for her lack of self confidence. And now Ice Cube; I truly believed he was Mars' most notorious criminal. But like Natasha's charachter he is a multi layered onion who can also kick butt! The supporting cast is also very good. But where would good actors be without great writing and this movie has it. The dialog is filled with intensity suspense, and even a few laughs (go figure!!). And those monsters, I don't know what they're saying, but I'm not arguing with them! The storyline kept me on the edge of my seat trying to guess what was going to happen next. I'll tell you what I want to happen next: GHOSTS OF PLUTO - DESOLATION STRIKES BACK!
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on December 5, 2001
A better ending would have gotten a 5 star rating from me. The movie itself is not bad. The story has kind of a Total Recall feel to it. Mars, alien something or other uncovered and so forth. Here is a quick review. A team of officers are being sent to a mining town to pick up Desolation Williams, played by Ice Cube. There is never any mention of why he has this nickname and it really does not fit since he has a crew of people that he runs with when free. So there is really no desolation to speak of. The officers are a group that has more issues than an Alabama family on Jerry Springer. In the mix you have at least 1 lesbian (Pam Grier) a drug addict (Natasha Henstridge), who seems to be taking a Mars version of X and a guy who just can't get over the fact that Natasha Henstridge won't have sex with him. When she does appear to be giving in and you are hoping for the gratuitous nudity you are left dissapointed due to a happening outside. There are a few other misfits in their group but they don't really have much of a part in this movie other than they are cannon fodder for the possessed miners. When they arrive at the usually booming miners village there no sign of human life. The adventure begins there. After finding a few people locked up in the jail they eventually discover that one of the people sleeping it off in the drunk tank is actually the scientist who set the "alien life form" free. I personally would have liked more of an explanation of what this lifeform is/was, how it got there, yadda yadda. We are left with nothing more than a red mist that can take over your body and cause you to mutilate yourself. Kinda like uncontrollable body modification. However, if you kill the host (infected human) the organism leaves the body and is invisible. But when Natasha Henstridge vomits her unwanted guest out it is a very visible dense red cloud. Yep, the only thing that gets into Natasha Henstridge makes it's entrance through her ear, just like it does everyone else. Anyway, they spend their time waiting for the train to return to pick them up so that they can return to civilization. Ice Cube does turn out to be the shinning star of this movie followed closely by Natasha Henstridge. She definately comes across very sexual in this movie, and has a ton of sex appeal to boot. Now the story was weak, but not to the point that this movie was unenjoyable or to be considered a bomb. Is it as good as the Escape movies or The Thing? No way, but is it as bad as Vampires. Nope, it is a middle of the road movie for John Carpenter. Now I do recommend watching the Tracking of Ghosts of Mars on the DVD extras. Very cool footage of some guitar gods laying down some serious smack. Footage is of Paul Crook with Anthrax (the band not the disease), Steve Vai and Buckethead. Some smokin guitar playing going on here. Even though I may have come across critical of this movie it was very enjoyable and I watch it probably at least once every week or 2. If you like dark movies and are not overly picky about total perfection in the story then this movie is a winner.
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on October 26, 2003
Oh John where have you gone? HALLOWEEN...THE FOG...THE THING...These were your truly good movies. Since then, we've had to go from THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW to VAMPIRES to this uproariously bad movie! If you intended it to be high camp, well then I would give you three or four stars, but it seems as though you weren't aiming for camp, or it would have been campier! Awful special effects; there's one scene when they're on the train that it looks like a cardboard box. Awful acting...except for Jason Statham, who appared to be enjoying himself. Ice Cube was as cold as his name; Natasha Hensridge should play non-speaking parts, although in this one she isn't even that attractive; shame on Pam Grier for joining the crew. It's like Carpenter cast the real zombies from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And the music, oh John, how awful. It was so distracting from the movie!!! What made HALLOWEEN so effective was it's "ordinariness"--one could actually feel it's reality; THE THING was likewise ominous in its wondering who was possessing who? This face should definitely join the list of the worst sci-fi films made. Yuck!
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on December 30, 2001
The hard truth is that it's been tough to be a John Carpenter fan for the past decade or so.
Sure we remember that this the guy who gave us such classics as "Assault on Precinct 13," "Halloween," "Escape From New York," and "The Thing." Even his box office disappointments("Big Trouble In Little China", "They Live") were still better and more interesting than just about anything else to hit multiplex screens during his glory years of the mid-seventies through eighties.
But by the early 1990s, Carpenter hit a slump that saw him cranking out one schlock film after another. Think of "In the Mouth of Madness" or "Vampires."
For this reason, I was more than a little skeptical when "Ghosts of Mars" hit theaters last summer. Even aside from J.C.'s recent track record, the film seemed a pastiche of other pop culture sources like "Pitch Black," Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles, and even Carpenter's own "Precinct 13." But my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a chance.
My verdict? Forget all the negative hype about this film. It's the movie Carpenter fans have been waiting for.
Granted the film isn't the least bit scary. It also doesn't ponder any weighty philosophical or political questions, like some of Carpenter's earlier films. What it does offer however is a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi action pic that delivers plenty of ass-kickin' action with Carpenter's trademark cynicism thrown in to boot.
I won't rehash the plot, since odds are you've already read the summary above. Instead, I'll focus on some other things I liked about this film, like the cast. I'll believe Ice Cube is a great actor when I see him convincingly play a brain surgeon, a priest, or something other than another variation of the same scowling bad ass he played in his debut film, "Boyz In the Hood" years ago. Still when a scowling badass is what you want, this rapper is your man and his persona(he basically plays himself in every movie) serves him well here.
As for Natasha Henstridge, no matter what she does she'll probably always be thought of as "The babe from the 'Species' movies." But the script smartly plays off her "hottie" status, by having her cop deftly fend off sexual advances from both her female commanding officer(Pam Grier) and her fellow officer(Jason Statham). She's smart as a whip and tough as nails.
The supporting cast, is also full of interesting picks, Statham and Clea Duvall are two of my favorite character actors and 70s-film goddess Grier is always fun to watch though I wish she had more to do here.
Also worth noting is the action. It's been years, since Carpenter did a balls-out action film, and it looks like this script really got his juices flowing. The action scenes here just flat out rock.
Lastly, though the film's overall storyline is nothing special or inventive it's biggest asset is that it does succeed in drawing the viewer in. After watching this movie, I found myself wanting to know more about these characters, about the true nature of the film's "Martians," and about the matriarchal human society that came to rule the red planet.
Though the film's dissappointing performance at the box offices puts the prospects of a sequel in doubt, I have to say it would be more than a little interesting to revisit the characters and story elements introduced here.
I only saw the film in the theatre so I cannot comment on the DVD release. However, the extras listed here pretty much guarantees that I will buy it at some point in the near future although I have only one quibble: Why no Ice Cube commentary?
Bottom line though, this movie is really a must for JC fans and anyone who likes the sci-fi action genre. John Carpenter is back and back in fine form.
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on September 19, 2002
Mr. Bruce Rux asked 'Why?' about "Ghosts of Mars". I thought he deserved some specific answers to his many questions.
Mars is ruled by a matriarchy. WHY?
- And why not? Men don't have the exclusive in power. Nobody's asking why our society is a 'patriarchy'. Mrs. Hilary Clinton will probably be the next president of the United States and nobody'll be asking why. Margaret Thatcher's been for a long time the first person in Great Britain and nobody asked why. Don't be another macho one!
A man cuts off his own thumb. WHY?
- Because he's a strong drug addict. Just before he does it, he filled his brains with nitrous mix through a black market breather, a Laugher. And as Jericho explains, that nitrous stuff turns your brains into cheese. In two words, it makes you dummy, totally unsensitive and unconscious. That's why he cuts off his thumb without even noticing right away.
The entire movie is told in multiple flashbacks. WHY?
- You mustn't go to movies very often, pal. "Ghosts of Mars" isn't the only movie told this way. There are plenty of them. Remember "Titanic". Lately there was "The Hole". Or Brian de Palma's "Casualties of War". Or Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness". Or "D.O.A.". Or...
There are flashbacks within flashbacks...WITHIN FLASHBACKS! WHY?
- That's a way of storytelling, like any other one. The main character of the movie is the only survivor of a massacre. Like in "The Hole" and many other films. In front of her superiors, she tells everything about what happened to her and the others. The thing is, Melanie Ballard isn't the only one to tell about the events; some other people - inside flashbacks -, especially Dr. Arlene Whitlock, Jericho and Uno, also tell about what happened to them, about what they saw and what's going on around them. They have to, to make things clear for the others - and for us. There's no problem about that. Many people find this way of storytelling complicated and confusing; I'm still wondering how they do it.
Natasha Henstridge stars - and DOESN'T STRIP! WHY?
- Because it's not in her contract - she's not supposed to show her beautiful body every time she makes a movie. Besides the role wasn't written for her, but for Courtney Love, who's far from being as sexy as Natasha. And remember this: in a Carpenter movie, women DON'T strip. They're treated as real human characters, not like simple ... toys, like in Hollywood.
Henstridge is a lawman - er, "person" - who allies herself with a notorious criminal...even AFTER the mutual threat they're fighting is over! WHY?
- Pardon me. The mutual threat Melanie and Williams are fighting is NOT over! In the end the ghosts invade the city of Chryse, where Melanie is. Williams comes to rescue her and they keep fighting together. Simple!
- Hey guy, it's just a film! Don't mix everything! In "Total Recall", Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone end up on Mars and nobody asked why.
Jailbreakers get themselves locked in the same cell as the guy they're trying to bust out! WHY??
- They don't get themselves locked. They come to rescue Desolation Williams, but Uno, who was keeping an eye on the cops, has a moment of joy and unwariness when he sees his brother again. Melanie uses it and locks them in the cell. Logical.
Joanna Cassidy in a hot-air balloon - ON MARS!! WHY???
- You're dealing with a science-fiction film. It takes place in 2176, at a time when men have made the air breathable on Mars. Not as well as it is on the Earth, but breathable anyway. And don't forget the winds. Another thing you forgot: in the film, Joanna Cassidy is a scientist, and on Mars, the gravity is much lower than on the Earth. So flying in a hot-air balloon is much easier on Mars than on the Earth.
Aeons-old Martian gas makes men into ooga-chaka zombies, who grunt to "I Can't Stop This Feeling, Deep Inside of Me"!! WHY?!?
- Some possessed men are aware of what happening to them, and in one scene, one of them deals with a human, and he tries to warn her (Melanie), that's all. He cuts his throat because he knows he's already dead, and in order to try to tell the human what's going on.
The Martian zombies dress for a Kiss video - ON MARS!! WHY!?!
- They dress as anything they want, not for what you call a Kiss video. They're not like us, they make a savage, early tribe. And you're right, they're Martian, on Mars. They're here to break any invasion of their planet, and they have to look like determined, pitiless warriors. And they don't care about the Kiss band - they don't even know what it is. Again, don't confuse fiction for reality!
The good guys escape, only to rush back into the jaws of certain doom - FOR NO GOOD REASON!!! WHY!!!
- For no good reason?? I'm gonna give you one good reason: DOMINION!! "Ghosts of Mars" isn't only a science-fiction film with elements of western and horror, it's also a reflection about colonialism and the human condition. The purpose of the film is the conquest of Mars. And to make this conquest possible, the so-called 'good guys' have to destroy, completely erase the enemy while it's still only in Shining Canyon, before it gets to Chryse and spreads all over the planet. As Melanie explains: 'It's not their planet any more'. The thing is, the enemy is a gang of ghosts. We can't kill what's already dead, but with an atomic bomb, maybe you'll do it. That's why they take the risk, and unfortunately many human people die. The bomb explodes but doesn't kill the enemy, and in the end Melanie and Desolation have to face it again... and the film finishes. This is an opened ending, like in "Halloween". Things will be more complicated on Mars than they were on the Earth, with the Indians. You can't kill what's not alive! Maybe they'll be making a sequel...
You said that nothing in the film makes sense - you're totally wrong. Everything in "Ghosts of Mars" makes sense. John Carpenter is not a primary filmmaker, he's one of the best ones still working. Maybe the best one. Like many other people in the U.S., you didn't understand much about this movie - if you didn't try to. Now I hope you will! You said that you love it, so why don't you try to understand it? And when you say that it's as bad as "Battlefield Earth", I don't agree, not at all. "Battlefield Earth" is another Hollywood complete disaster, and "Ghosts of Mars", a great independent work. Both films can't be compared, and you can't compare Carpenter to... Roger Christian.
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