(US); 2000; Rated PG-13; 106 Minutes
Val Kilmer: Gallagher
Carrie-Anne Moss: Commander Kate Bowman
Benjamin Bratt: Ted Santen
Tom Sizemore: Dr. Quinn Burchenal
Simon Baker: Chip Pettengill
Produced by Bruce Berman, Mark Canton, Stephen Jones,
Andrew Mason, Chuck Pfarrer, Jorge Saralegui and Charles
J.D. Schlissel; Directed by Antony Hoffman; Screenwritten
by Chuck Pfarrer and Jonathan Lemkin
by DAVID KEYES
blockbusters appear to be trapped in an endless, disheartening
cycle in which almost every concept is often materialized
in pairs, with both productions usually being released so
close in time that a nagging sense of deja vu is usually
present by the second time around. Evidence to support this
has been too numerous to maintain, but among the chief examples
of this are the concepts of volcanic disaster ("Dante's
Peak" and "Volcano"), asteroids or meteors ("Deep Impact"
and "Armageddon"), gooey creature features ("Phantoms" and
"Deep Rising"), and most recently, perilous ventures against
the forces of nature ("The Perfect Storm" and "Vertical
Limit"). One notable but wasted concept under this rule
is that of Mars exploration, in which ambitious filmmakers
have foreseen mankind finally placing feet on the sand of
that elusive red planet, then realizing just how complicated
the matter can turn in to. The first film under this idea
was released in early 2000 under the name of "Mission To
Mars," which was directed by Brian DePalma and featured
an ensemble cast that had the ferocity and willpower of
your average football team. Now comes "Red Planet," which
is being unleashed on a cinema where most members of the
audience will likely be asking themselves, "is there really
room for another film centered on the idea of Mars exploration?"
that umbrella, "Red Planet" almost surely faces a doomed
future at the box office. But in comparison of the two films,
this one is more like "Mission To Mars" on steroids, with
the same compound structure implemented, but a sense of
potency and effort that generates flavor, interest, and
sometimes even genuine success (unlike the previous picture,
which dwelled on things none of us had any interest in and
complicated matters by building up to a disappointing payoff).
But the picture, in the long hall, is not the great improvement
over its predecessor that it could have been. Taking away
the basic formula (humans taking steps on the surface of
the deserted planet and then confronting dangerous perils),
this is the kind of movie that has no interest in duplicating
every single detail of a prior undertaking, but fails to
realize that its own self-made ideas are not much of an
story goes something like this: mankind's existence on Earth
is growing endangered with each new breath, as population
and pollution escalate beyond normal limits. The only hope
is to set up a colony on another planet in the solar system.
Mars is the prime target, but how can it be done? An ingenious
idea allows deposits of algae and bacteria to be set up
on the surface of the red planet, and that in turn will
help produce oxygen, therefore creating an environment with
the right conditions for living in. But the process backfires
after twenty years or so, and a crew that consists of Commander
Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss), Gallagher (Val Kilmer) and
Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt) is sent up there to investigate.
is almost the obligatory setup of any movie dealing with
elements of science fiction ("investigations" always usually
uncover amazing or deadly findings, after all), but the
script by Chuck Pfarrer and Jonathan Lemkin at least has
given us a premise that implements the formula effectively.
Is the concept of living on any other planet by use of algae
at all possible in this reality? Probably not, but that
doesn't undermine any of its merit as a fresh movie mechanism.
A shame that other pictures, even better ones, aren't willing
to be as creative with their approach.
plot that follows, however, sets off a climax and resolution
that echo the same sense of underwhelming pleasure that
"Mission To Mars" does, and the characters that induce the
plot's direction are so transparent in structure that we
could line them up in a straight line and still see the
wall on the other end. In addition, the cinematography is
cold and messy, with shots being filmed at such monotonous
tones and swiftness that there is difficulty in seeing exactly
what is going on. Last but certainly not least are the movie's
visuals, which are muddy and cold, and look as if they belong
in cut scenes of the average computer game.
weight of every flaw and virtue, however, I still find "Red
Planet" a little more convincing and plausible than its
predecessor, even if it is not enough reason to actually
recommend the follow-up either. The key to that result is
in the efforts to create a unique, bizarre but ideal premise
for the remainder of the material. Its just a shame the
rest of the material itself didn't share in the same enthusiasm
as the setup did.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.