Red Planet (2000) / Sci Fi-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp, Simon Baker
Director: Antony Hoffman
Screenplay: Chuck Pfarrer, Jonathan Lempkin
Review published November 20, 2000
Red Planet is the fourth attempt in the last year to try to make the same storyline work and come up short. Supernova, Pitch Black and Mission to Mars all dealt with an Earth-mission to another planet, only to have complications arise, mostly in the form of hysteria and other-wordly presence that causes everything to be botched up somehow.
Red Planet takes place in the future, in a time when all life on Earth is on the verge of extinction. Attempts have been made to produce a breathable environment on Mars with the help of oxygen-producing algae, and a crew of Americans is sent to the red planet to see how things are going. A solar flare causes a quick evacuation of their main ship and when the colony is found to have been destroyed, they begin to see hopes fade in the last hours of their lives.
Like the three aforementioned films preceding Red Planet, this is a feast for the eyes, with beautiful use of special effects and locales. However, just like the real Mars, there isn't a breath of fresh air to be had in a film that has no moment of surprise. It's a paint-by-numbers sci-fi actioner that never strays from its course, with almost every conflict telegraphed beforehand with it's conclusion evident to all who are paying attention.
Attempts are made to add humor and levity to the tedious storyline, but this is the wrong cast for off-the-cuff witticisms to work. The film also has it's share of hollow philosophizing, which almost undid the other Mars outing, Mission to Mars, but thankfully doesn't take it to the level of preachiness.
Antony Hoffman directs for the first time, and while not doing a bad job, he does nothing much to help either. The main failing of Red Planet comes from a lack of freshness in the writing department, headed by Chuck Pfarrer, who gave us other terrible and derivative films like Virus, The Jackal, and Barb Wire.
Of the sci-fi films mentioned previously, Red Planet isn't the worst, but it is perhaps the least interesting. At least the other films try to be something better than mediocre, even if they never succeeded. Red Planet just proves that, if at first you don't succeed, maybe you should give up because it wasn't a very good idea to begin with.
©2000 Vince Leo