Taking no heed from NASA's failures, the rocket scientists of Hollywood persist
in their effort to make a successful Mars movie. Although not as embarrassing
as Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars, first-timer Antony Hoffman's The
Red Planet should have been aborted before liftoff. Let's just say that any
film with "algae" as a key plot word is in serious trouble. That's what
environmentally desperate earthlings of the mid 21st century are trying to coat
Mars with in an attempt to oxygenate the planet for possible colonization. When
the algae disappears, as if from a cosmic dose of Desenex, the inevitable
melting-pot crew of space cadets is sent in.
At first it seems the mission will be dominated by the old science-versus-faith
debate, what with spiritually minded science officer Bud Chantilas (Terence
Stamp) swapping clichés with materialistic geneticist Dr. Burchenal (Tom
Sizemore). Then there's the requisite sexual tension between Mission Commander
Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss, sporting Sigourney Weaver's T-shirt from
Alien) and lowly mechanic Gallagher (Val Kilmer), and the bogus rivalry
between hotshot pilot Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt) and upstart genius Chip
Pettengil (Simon Baker). Ultimately, though, the movie comes down to the usual
bad dialogue, implausible plotting, startling special effects (a robot named
AMEE puts in the film's best performance), and feeble ripoffs of better movies.
As Gallagher so eloquently puts it, "Fuck this planet!"
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