Action Movie Fanatix Review: Red Planet

They Didn’t Find Life On Mars
It Found Them.

Starring: Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp

Director: Antony Hoffman

2000  |  107 Minutes  |  PG-13

“Fuck this planet.” – Gallagher

I feel like there were a bunch of Mars based movies (Red Planet, Mission to Mars, Ghosts of Mars) that had come out all around the same time.  They all kind of blend together in my mind so I have no idea why I had decided to buy the Red Planet DVD.  I imagine I found it cheap somewhere and sometimes that is all the justification I need.

In the mid-21st century the Earth is vastly over populated and polluted.  A crew is sent to Mars to begin prepping for human habitation.  When the ship crashed AMEE (Autonomous Mapping Exploration and Evasion), a former military robot turned research bot was damaged and reverted to military mode.  AMEE began hunting down each crew member one by one.  The crew also discovers that there is indeed life on Mars and it isn’t friendly.

First off, can Sci-Fi movie makers stop with humans always being the worst thing this planet or galaxy has ever seen?  Red Planet only touches on this at the beginning but I am so sick and tired of hearing about how awful we all are.  I feel like 90% of Sci-Fi movies could start with “Those stupid humans have ruined yet another planet…”  I will now step down from my soapbox.

There really seem to be two types of Science Fiction movies.  There are ones that ask questions and make you think and then there’s the ones that don’t make you think at all and are usually the equivalent of an intergalactic horror or action movie.  Both types can be equally entertaining movies.  Red Planet attempts to be a thinker, then gives up and turns into something that hovers between sci-fi, horror and action.

So, the sci-fi isn’t thought provoking.  The horror isn’t scary and the action isn’t all that exciting.  That isn’t to say that Red Planet is a horrible movie, I just don’t think it was successful in achieving its full potential in any of the necessary areas.

The acting is pretty well done.  There are a lot of good actors present and doing their best.  This had to have been one of Val Kilmer’s last non-DTV starring roles.  I have also come to the conclusion that movie makes don’t know what to do with Carrie-Anne Moss other than retreading the Trinity character in The Matrix.

The special effects are mostly very good but there are a few spots where it is very obviously not real.  There are some really shoddy special effects in a few parts early on, especially when a zero gravity fire breaks out inside the ship.  The smoke, fire and extinguisher effects all look like they could have been done better in a video game.

AMEE does look and move great.  Her/its movement switches between running like a jungle cat and a human battle stance with spinning blade like hands.  Plus she has a helicopter like drone that flies above and helps her to track her enemies.

The one scene that actually sticks with me most though is the scene where the pod actually lands on Mars.  It is a relatively insignificant scene but it is probably the only one that I didn’t feel like I had seen a million times before.  There are a bunch of huge airbags that inflate around the pod causing the pod to roll and bounce down a couple mountains before finally coming to a stop.  Watching this scene you can just imagine what it would feel like.  I imagine it would be like something between sheer terror for your own life and a crazy carnival ride.

Red Planet isn’t a bad movie.  The acting is well done and the majority of the special effects are good.  It just isn’t anything all that special.  It is one of those movies that won’t cause anyone to be passionately for or against it.  It just is.  It just exists without any real purpose or relevance.