Red Planet

Directed by Antony Hoffman
Starring: Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief nudity and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
November 13, 2000

How many Mission-to-Mars films can the market support in one year? Well, once you release one called Mission to Mars, the quota is filled, no matter how bland that one film is. There is certainly no room for another film that is even worse, with less publicity, and several high-profile hits already dominating the cinemas. Red Planet was doomed to fail, and Warner Bros. should have known this when they bought it from Village Roadshow. Bad choices, bad timing, bad movie. Shall I continue?

The earth is doomed in 2025 after decades of pollution. The human race needs to spread itself out to curb the trend, so the most reasonable permanent-summer home is Mars. Many probes have been sent to the planet, which have deposited algae on the surface. This algae is supposed to consume the carbon dioxide atmosphere, and give it a healthy mixture of breathable oxygen. The plan seemed to be working as oxygen levels increased, but they suddenly started dropping, and all of the algae seems to have vanished. Now, a manned mission to Mars must be initiated to determine the cause of this breakdown.

In charge of the mission is Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss). She has assembled a crew comprised of top-notch pros like co-pilot Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt), and questionable last-minute replacements like mechanical systems engineer Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer). A key member of the crew is AMEE, a robot on loan from the Marine Corps that will be used to navigate the Martian terrain. Sure, they may have removed its weaponry and switched it to navigational mode, but that darn military mode could sneak up on them at the slightest provocation.

What AMEE gives Red Planet is the opportunity to steal not only from 2001, but from Forbidden Planet as well (giving it a tidy connection to Shakespeare's Tempest). Well, if you're going to steal, it might as well be from the two greatest science fiction films of all time, and a great play to boot. The problem is that we know how its going to turn out, and with a green commercial director (Antony Hoffman) at the helm, it isn't going to look good in comparison.

In fact, it wasn't even necessary for me to see Red Planet, knowing all of this beforehand. Alas, I did put myself through the experience, only to have every prejudice confirmed. I hoped for some good special effects at least, which made even Mission to Mars enjoyable at times. Instead, the Mars of Red Planet looks like Utah through a reddish-orange filter. The only aliens to speak of were little two-inch nematodes, which were responsible for eating all the algae, in case you were curious. Oh yeah, and presumably there were actors in this film, but I didn't really notice any.

Wait a minute, I do remember Terence Stamp showing up for a few scenes. His character was killed off pretty quickly, along with any interest that I had in the film.

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Red Planet (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan