US Release Date: 11-10-2000
Directed by: Antony Hoffman
- Val Kilmer, as
- Robby Gallagher
- Carrie-Anne Moss, as
- Kate Bowman
- Benjamin Bratt, as
- Ted Santen
- Tom Sizemore, as
- Dr. Quinn Burchenal
- Terence Stamp, as
- Dr. Bud Chantilas
- Simon Baker as
- Chip Pettengill
Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer in Red Planet.
I'm sure this has happened to many of you; you go to the movies to see one movie, but that one turns out to be sold out, so you end up seeing a different one. Well that's what happened to me with Red Planet. I intended on seeing The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but was beat out by a bunch of screaming children and amateur moviegoers. And after leaving the crowded, noisy, lobby with my large Diet Coke (no ice), and settling gently into the padded darkness of the relatively empty theater, I was already glad I was seeing this movie and not The Grinch. A feeling that was confirmed by the time the credits rolled.
The year is 2050 and the earth has not aged well. Due to the poisoning of its eco-system by mankind, top scientists give all life on the planet roughly 100 years to live. To remedy the situation, humanity must find a new home. Mars, being the closest in size and proximity to the sun as ours, is chosen as that new home. Probes containing algae are sent to the planet so that they might begin creating oxygen and the slow process of terra-forming is begun. While at first, things seem to be proceeding nicely, suddenly and inexplicably, the new oxygen levels begin dropping, undoing all the work that has been done. Someone must go to Mars and investigate. Enter the Mars One and its crew, on a mission to save mankind.
Upon their arrival at Mars, things start to go wrong. A solar flare disables the ship, the escape pod crashes in the wrong spot, one of the crew is injured beyond hope, all of the algae seems to be gone, and the navigation robot, damaged in the crash, is now locked in military mode, viewing everything that moves as an enemy, including the crew. But there is one small sign of hope when Val Kilmer's character discovers by chance that he can breathe without his helmet. And it's now a race to discover why, get off the planet before starving or dying of thirst, avoiding death by the mad robot, and finally repairing the ship and getting home.
I've always been a fan of Val Kilmer. I know all about the rumors that he is difficult to work with and a perfectionist on a movie set, but I don't give a shit. Why should I? I don't have to work with him, I just get to enjoy watching him on screen. He gives a good performance here as the engineer, even though this movie is obviously not an Oscar Contender. He's likable and by the end of the film you are rooting for him.
Carrie Anne-Moss continues her intelligent, beautiful, Sci-Fi action babe, thing that she started in The Matrix. She plays the Commander of the mission and the only woman. And no woman has looked this hot in fatigues on a spaceship since Ripley stripped down to her underwear to kick some Alien Ass.
30 years ago, Red Planet would have been the blockbuster of the summer just on the merits of its special effects, which are superb, but times have changed and we now take these things for granted. Mars is recreated with great care, you have a 'you are there' kind of feeling, and the scenes in space are done as well or better than I've ever seen. The good part about these effects is that none of them are pushed in your face. They never take over the movie. They just sit quietly in the background like special effects should, without getting in the way of the plot.
So while Red Planet breaks no real new ground, it is solidly entertaining and a good film.
Carrie-Anne Moss in Red Planet.
Red Planet is a decent science fiction film. It would have been a great film if I had never seen another movie before. It is predictable and follows a plot that you can see unfolding long before it actually does.
I would think that of all movie genres, science fiction would be one type of film making where originality was most prevalent. This film proves me wrong. I knew who would live and who would not fairly early on. As soon as I saw AMEE (the droid) I knew she wasn't going to help the crew. It looked far too threatening. When they were all about to die from lack of oxygen I was thinking "I bet they can breath the atmosphere." Did I know because I am so science fiction savvy? No, I knew because it was the only logical way out of the situation the writers had put the characters in.
With a little thought, you can guess who makes it to a possible sequel. Val Kilmer is the star. Obviously he would not have an early exit from the film. The directors were not about to keep his pretty mug behind a helmet the whole movie, so I knew they were going to find a way to breathe without them. As soon as Baker accidentally killed Bratt and lied about his death, he became a flawed character signaling his minutes of screentime were numbered.
Scott sings Val Kilmer's praises as an actor. In my opinion he is just another movie star that needs to thank God he was born photogenic. I like relative newcomer Simon Baker. This guy could have a great career. Watch him as the bisexual prostitute in LA Confidential and now television's The Guardian. This is an actor. He actually shows emotion on his face without speaking lines.
The direction, as Scott mentioned is good, except he telegraphs the plot. The effects as well stand out. To the amateur moviegoer this is a very good movie. However, us seasoned movie watchers require a little more creativity.
Terence Stamp and Benjamin Bratt in Red Planet.
I'm in the middle on this one. I agree with Eric that there is little originality to be found here. I too guessed they could breathe the air when they were all suffocating inside their space helmets, but the deaths were more difficult to surmise (except for the two leads of course) since several well known stars die fairly early in the story. In fact Red Planet plays like a disaster movie in space. Everything goes wrong from the beginning, they are in a constant struggle to survive against nearly insurmountable odds, and the cast members start dying off one by one.
Like Scott, despite the fact that it's quite derivative, I still rather enjoyed this movie. Thanks mostly to the talented cast and great special effects, which hold up quite nicely a dozen years later. Some of the visuals in space are very reminiscent of Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it appears we are in the minority. Most movie goers and critics agreed with Eric, as it received mostly scathing reviews and earned a worldwide gross of just 33 million dollars against an estimated budget of 80 million. Not exactly a hit.
The one angle where they fooled me was with Benjamin Bratt's character. Since they didn't show what happened to his body after he fell I assumed he was still alive and would show up unexpectedly to save the day at the last minute. I was mistaken.
The script is OK but nothing to brag about. I did like the fact that they went for a fairly realistic approach. There are no ravenous space aliens or little green Martians running about. Compared to John Carter this is a documentary. My favorite bit of dialogue was spoken by Val Kilmer. When they are lost and are trying to figure out their coordinates he says, “This is it. That moment they told us in high school where one day, algebra would save our lives.”
Red Planet is not as bad as its reputation. It holds up quite nicely from a technical standpoint and is entertaining enough in a formulaic B-movie way.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2000)