Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Brian De Palma (2000, Touchstone Pictures)
Starring Gary Sinese, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielson

A mission to rescue a doomed crew on Mars gets into trouble itself, while finding evidence that intelligent life had once visited the planet.

View count: twice



1 star+

December 19th, 2004 on TV  

Every bit as bad as I remembered it, and missing the best scenes, too!

I really only started watching this movie again for one scene, that is where several crew members start walking around the rotating habitat section of the spacecraft, and dance to classical music. Unfortunately, somebody in the TV station thought that would be one of the best parts to cut out in order to fit it within the allotted time! That's the risk we take, I suppose, watching movies on TV. By the time I realized that that scene was missing, I was nearly halfway through, so decided to continue on.

Better than I remember it were the character dynamics, especially at the beginning of the mission, and beforehand. Despite the rip-off status of the Apollo 13 pre-mission party, the crew members had great interactions; they felt very real. Through the time before the Problem occurred, they continued to have great chemistry, and I wondered why I remembered disliking the movie so much. About a third of the way through, I rediscovered the reasons.

The movie also got some of the science right, at which I was amazed. True, they seemed to use air resistance to stop themselves in space, and continued their burns way longer than necessary. And their computers were amazingly exact at telling them how far they needed to go and how much fuel they had. But I still love the way they patched the leak in the spacecraft.

It is not often that I rewatch a movie with this kind of a low rating, and this is a good example why. Once everybody reached Mars, the movie went downhill really fast.



1 star+

April 4th, 2000 in the Theatre  

Insulting is one word that comes to mind.  This movie had some wonderful moments, but there were not enough of them, nor did they make up for the poor and insulting moments that came between them.

Right off the bat, I have to say that the music was appalling.  In most places it was completely inappropriate, at others it was distracting, and at still others it was very strange.  Not strange as in the characters are on a planet that we have never before visited, as would be appropriate, but just plain weird.  There were only a few moments that actually made sense musically.

Second, I would completely remove the party at the beginning of the movie.  It comes as a cheap rip-off of Apollo 13, straight to the horny astronaut trying to get laid.  Besides, don't these guys get quarantined anymore?  I think it was a bad idea to give the movie a specific date, because there is no way we are going to be that technologically ready in twenty years.  Just leave it arbitrary.

The third thing I would do is remove the last thirty minutes.  Depicting Life On Mars is one thing.  Saying there was intelligent life there hundreds of millions of years ago is another.  Still another is having their spaceship waiting to take a passenger to another galaxy.  What galaxy was that, by the way?  There is no such visible place in our sky. 

The whole sequence that builds up to the end was ridiculous.  They enter a white room, and no dust enters with them.  They don't even track dust in with their boots!  A display is activated that shows a giant impact on Mars, and the subsequent evacuation of the planet.  If they had that many spacefaring ships on the surface, and they weren't vaporized by the impact, why weren't they out exploring the solar system?  And instead of sending only one strand of DNA to Earth, why leave for another galaxy at all? 

The alien that shows up looks completely fake.  No Star Wars technology here.  The evolution sequence was completely wrong, too.  Not only did the buffalo look fake, but mammals cannot evolve from dinosaurs!  But that's just a minor mistake in a sequence filled with lots more. 

Finally, what was the purpose of destroying the "face" monument before liftoff?  I can't figure it out.  Now that one person has left, there will be no trace of the aliens left on Mars.  That's just great thinking on the part of the aliens, don't you think? 

A major complaint with the movie has been that it's just boring.  I don't think so.  I thought the long, drawn out sequences were beautiful unto themselves.  The effects were mostly superb, and are the only saving graces that kept this movie from falling into the zero-star range, aside from the astronomy and physics that they did get right (which wasn't all of it, by far, but it looked like they tried to do a lot). 

I have to exclude the space-walking "train" that the astronauts created while about to crash onto the resupply vehicle, which was very funny to watch, when it wasn't boring. 

But the rest of them were great.  I loved the whole scene while the dancing tune was going on.  It really showed off the ship nicely.  That is a wonderful ship!  Just perfectly sized for four astronauts. 

I also loved the way they found the leaks, and the fact that those leaks and the depressurisation of the cabin were not the cause of the catastrophe.  The scarring on the ship was very nicely portrayed, and the sudden combustion of the frozen propellant was also neat to see.  The explosion went by so fast that I couldn't follow whether the motions of the ship were accurate or not, but the attention to detail during that part of the movie was so good that I have to think it was. 

The only other part of the movie takes place when the astronauts land on Mars, and find their missing crew-member.  I wondered why the decals were only NASA and a US flag, when one of the MARS-1 astronauts was clearly Russian. 

The greenhouse was really neat, though there seemed to be way too much wind blowing things around.  The wind blows fast, sure, but it does not have much substance to it.  But the part I thought was well executed (but not well acted) was the description of the astronaut who nearly goes crazy.  He thinks the rescue team is a bunch of ghosts.  Despite what the astronaut says, low gravity does not cause psychological problems.  But loneliness does. 

Speaking of which, she seems pretty focused for watching her husband commit suicide in orbit.  She knew he was going to die anyway, but he did the act because of her, because he knew she would die uselessly if she came after him.  That scene touched me deeply, even though the poor physics (with the fuel, and the orbits) was distracting. 

To sum up, the story was sorely lacking, but some individual moments managed to shine through.  Bad physics and astronomy are always a distraction during this type of movie, but the effects (most of them, anyway), were good enough that during the middle third of the movie, I didn't care.  By the end, though, the words that appeared on the screen left me the most insulted.  THE END.  As if I couldn't tell.


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