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.