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Tuesday 19 January 2021

Burl reviews Red Planet! (2000)

Ha ha and Mars-men, it’s Burl, here to review a picture that takes us on a forgettable journey to the fourth planet from the sun! I know it’s forgettable because, despite seeing it (I think!) in the theatre on its initial run back in 2000, I couldn’t recall a single thing about it, except that it involves astronauts flying to Mars and things not going well for the crew! Ha ha, am I talking about Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars? Nope, the other one: Red Planet!

Well, I watched it again the other night and I figure I’d better review it quick, before the particulars disappear from my mind again as they most assuredly will! Already they’re fading! But I can tell you this much: the year is 2057 or thereabouts, and humans have wrecked and degraded the planet Earth to such a degree that we’re casting around for an alternate world on which to live! Ha ha, sound familiar? Well, Mars is the obvious candidate, and to that end, Earth scientists have been bombarding the crimson planet with algaes in the hope that this will create a breathable atmosphere! However, the algaes have not taken, and an all-white crew of astronauts has been assembled to travel there and find out why!

Val Kilmer, well-known from his roles in Top Secret and Real Genius, plays the space janitor, and the ship is captained by Carrie-Anne Moss, whom we recall from Pompeii! Other crew members include Tom Sizemore, famous for his role in Passenger 57; Benjamin Bratt from Demolition Man; Simon Baker from Land of the Dead; and Terence Stamp, whom we all celebrate for his role in Link! Stamp speaks in the same barbiturated cadence he used in Alien Nation - ha ha, I guess that’s the acting style he reserves for middling, forgettable sci-fi pictures!

Everything goes wrong for this bunch almost the very second they reach the planet - before that, even! A fire breaks out on the ship, and Moss is left to deal with that as the fellows jettison to the surface of Mars! They crash land, their habitat (built, I wonder, by whom, as these are supposedly the first humans on the planet) is all busted and the supplies gone, one of them dies of a busted spleen and another by taking a header off a precipice, and a robot dog becomes angry at them! And still this is only the beginning of their trials!

Thanks to some mystical pronouncements early in the film made by Stamp’s character - by name Chamomile, or Cantinflas, or some such - one assumes there’s some kind of galactic metaphysical hocus-pocus at work here, but the explanations, when they come, are fairly science-based! But truly, nothing seems to go right for the gang! One of the good parts of the movie comes when they crash land on the planet and some special balloons deploy! They get a pretty good shake up when the balloon ship rolls off the edge of Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system! Ha ha!

But good parts are fairly few and far between in this picture! Other than Kilmer harboring a crush on Moss, and Stamp’s avuncular flakiness, there’s not much to these characters! One guy reveals himself to be a jerk - not a full-on bad guy, just a jerk - but then immediately tumbles off a cliff! The Kilmer and Sizemore characters both have the same laid-back persona, and are fairly interchangeable! The robot dog  proves their greatest foe, but it’s not a very thrilling one! There are also some space fleas!

All in all, I remember now why I forgot this movie! Ha ha, I fully intend to do so again, in fact: completely and utterly! It’s not terrible I suppose, and the trick effects are good, and the photography by the always-solid Peter Suschitzky is fine; but for all that, the locations still look like Australia with a red filter over the lens! All in all it’s pretty baloney, so I give Red Planet one and a half talking space suits!

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