Red Planet
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

The good news is that Red Planet is a much better movie than Mission To Mars.  Both films tell the story of the first manned mission to Mars but the similarity ends there.  Red Planet has a much superior story, better acting, and better direction.  It's not great but it's good.  It's a bit slow at the start with a klunky voice-over introducing the crew and some character building scenes that don't completely work. But soon a real chemistry develops between the characters, particularly the Commander, played by Carrie-Anne Moss who rocketed to fame as Trinity in The Matrix and the chief engineer, played by Val Kilmer.  They are joined by Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt and Terence Stamp.  Everyone does a good job, although the plot being what it is, the characters start falling by the wayside fairly quickly.  Red Planet begins as the spaceship is about to leave Earth on its journey to Mars.  Earth is rapidly becoming uninhabitable so Mars is being made more earth-like so the human race can move one planet over.  But something is wrong with the terraforming so our intrepid crew is being sent to Mars to find out what the problem is.  As usual disaster strikes just as they are about to arrive.  A major solar flare (inexplicably not detected by Earth's astronomers) causes major malfunctions and the crew is forced to head for the surface pronto. Moss must stay onboard the spaceship in order to push the launch button.  Joining the landing party is AIMEE, a robot borrowed from the Marines.  The first thing we learn about AIMEE is that she can go from Exploratory mode to Military mode at the flick of a switch.  You can guess what happens next.  In addition to ducking AIMEE, the landing party must deal with various other threats on the Martian surface. I won't say more so I don't spoil anything but it was a relief to find out that Duct Tape is still important in the future.  There is a nice cameo by Sojourner, the rover from the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission.  Meanwhile, back on the ship, Moss is trying to get things shipshape.  Some of the best moments in Red Planet involve Moss and the onboard computer, a sort of female version of the HAL 9000.  Even though Moss does a nice believable job as the Commander, since this is a Hollywood movie, she is the only member of the crew who showers on screen and whose space gear includes  halter tops.  She and Kilmer create some heat even though they spend most of the movie separated by hundreds or thousands of miles.  Terence Stamp, who has done everything from the Adventures Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, is an old pro and shows it here as the philosophical member of the crew.  Tom Sizemore, recently seen in Saving Private Ryan, does nicely as the know-it-all chief terraformer.  Benjamin Bratt, until recently in the cast of Law & Order and best known for dating Julia Roberts, appears as the stereotypical playboy astronaut.  I seem to like this movie a lot more than most of the other critics whose reviews I've read.  Their reviews seem to imply that this is another Mission to Mars but it it isn't.  Give Mars movies a second chance and go see Red Planet.