STARRING: Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp

2000, 116 Minutes, Directed by: Antony Hoffman

As the voice-over at the beginning of Red Planet informs us, in the future, after realising that Earth will one day be uninhabitable because of our pollution, plans are made to terraform and eventually colonise Mars. 

Terraforming basically means making changes to a planet's ecosystem to make it capable of sustaining human life, in this case, creating a breathable atmosphere. "Shake and bake planets" as characters in Aliens referred to it. Apparently the concept is within the realm of the possible and one that scientists have been toying around with.

However, things go wrong and a manned mission is sent to Mars to investigate. For some reason the mission is led by someone named Bowman (after a character in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and is played by the babe from The Matrix . . .

Does humanity have any intrinsic right to use up and destroy one planet, and then simply move on to the next one to use up and destroy it also? Should Mars be radically changed, or should the planet be declared one big nature reserve and left alone? These are the sort of questions that characters in Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant Red Mars trilogy of books discussed a lot, but they are not the sort of question that seems to bother any of the characters in Red Planet. The only character remotely interested in philosophical issues of any sort dies early on in the movie (just like a similar character in the pathetic Supernova, which I also recently saw), so we're stuck with a Val Kilmer with hair dyed yellow instead.

It's a shame that according to Red Planet one would only want to want to leave Mars as soon as one has landed on it. At one point Val Kilmer gives the planet the finger and growls "fuck this planet." Forget about sense of wonder at having landed on another planet. However, once you have accepted that Red Planet isn't interested in being a serious movie about going to Mars, but instead a big budgeted B-movie, then you're on your way to a more passable time at the cinemas. Does Red Planet have any alien bugs? Check. A haywire killer robot? Check. Carrie Ann Moss in the shower. Check - although you don't see much I'm afraid.

Anyway, judging from the above you might think that Red Planet is fun. Actually it's not really. It's better than that other recent Mars movie, Mission to Mars, but that isn't too much of a recommendation when one thinks about it. 

It's a passable way to pass two hours if you've really got nothing better to do. The special effects are okay, so is the music and the production designs. Some of the hardware is interesting (the robot dog and the Martian landing vehicle). The dialogue and acting is bland, and the story is predictable. However, the net effect is simply mediocre. Red Planet is one of those movies that you won't discuss walking out of the cinema and will forget ever having seen within a day or two.



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