Red Planet
dir Anthony Hoffman scr Chuck Pfarrer, Jonathan Lemkin
with Carrie-Anne Moss, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker, Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp, Jessica Norton, Caroline Bossi, Bob Neill
release US 10.Nov.00 UK 1.Dec.00
Warners 00/Australia 1h36 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
And then there were four. The landing team from the Mars-1 space mission need to find oxygen, quick.
Alas, the year's second Mars thriller isn't much better than the first one (Mission to Mars). It's another lame-yet-entertaining romp with superior cinematography and effects, a solid cast and a ludicrously stupid storyline. It's 2057 and after decimating Earth's resources, humankind's only hope is to colonise Mars. But the algae they've seeded the planet with has mysteriously disappeared, so a six-man crew is dispatched to find out what's up. Of course, everything that can go wrong does, beginning with a single disastrous solar flare that leaves the lovely mission commander Bowman (Moss) on the ship while the five guys crash to the surface ... and begin making scary discoveries.

The corny plot has the men being picked off one by one, each by a different adversary, including the mission's pet robot, which gets injured in the crash and emerges like a bear with a thorn in its paw ... in war mode! Much of the dialog is unintentionally hilarious, with the screenwriters shameless enough to include lines like, "Let's bring them home!" Even so, the actors plod valiantly through the script, bringing out what nuances they can find between the lines. Sizemore is easily the standout, while Baker tries to do something with his morally tortured character. Moss is resourceful and tenacious, Kilmer is brave and strong, Bratt is burly and macho. And the weakest link is the veteran, Stamp, who for some reason mutters his zany lines in slo-mo like a 78rpm record played on 33 1/3. Apparently there's a big surprise at the end, but noting happened that I couldn't see coming. Stupid film, but never dull. And the Australian outback makes a great Mars-scape.

[12--themes, violence, language] 28.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall