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MISSION TO MARS (2000) ** movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

Twenty years ago, I’m sure we had lots of grandiose ideas of what the year 2000 would be like. In 1980, I turned five so naturally, I thought we would all have “light sabers” and flying cars by now. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Now that it’s 2000, what will life be like in 2020? We may be on Mars, but even if we aren’t, people will laugh at Brian De Palma’s “Mission to Mars” for more than just its lack of authenticity.

Given our current space-faring status, a 2020 Mars mission launch is a bit optimistic. Setting 2020 as the year we land on Mars runs the risk of seriously dating “Mission to Mars” and invalidating its story rather quickly. That’s the first mistake of this motion picture effort. The next is the 10-15 minute long “picnic” scene the movie begins with. As soon as I saw this, I knew the production had started off on the wrong foot. The scene was supposed to develop characters, but instead only documented how foolish and potentially irresponsible these astronauts are. The dialogue was meaningless until someone goes into a cliched speech in order to get across tedious information.

Next, instead of showing us the exciting things such as the takeoff, the struggle to get there and first Mars landing, the scene jumps to the first Mars team ALREADY ON MARS. What are they doing? Surveying. I felt that the audience was heavily cheated out of the most exhilarating parts that were missing from this film (even the critically blasted “Armageddon” did it much better). The team surveys one of Mars’ mountains only to come face to face with a “living” sand tornado. I don’t know about you, but in 1986 when I encountered a tornado, I was smart enough to like crazy. Instead, these not-so-smart astronauts stood and stared, resulting in three swift deaths. The rest of the film focuses on the “Mars 2” mission that spends an entire year in transit just to attempt a “rescue” mission. Silly considering that no one could possibly survive on Mars for over a year with only a few plants to provide oxygen and food (hey, if the people in the “Biosphere” couldn’t do it here on Earth, how could this guy?). Yet someone did survive who has discovered the secret that there was intelligent life on Mars.

Poor performances by everyone despite the strong cast. Gary Sinise and Don Cheadle seem to have the best roles, but they can’t do much to save themselves here. Even the photography was too revealing in that you could see the heavily caked makeup on the actor’s faces, making them look absolutely phony.

I’m very disappointed in Brian De Palma for this poorly thought-out film. He’s more notably known as a hit and miss, suspense director with outstanding thriller classics such as “Dressed to Kill”, “Scarface” and “The Untouchables”. Unfortunately, De Palma has not made a decent film since 1993’s “Carlito’s Way”. He’s been criticized in the past for supposedly plagiarizing Alfred Hitchcock’s style of direction. After this latest effort, he will have to work that much harder to keep from becoming a pariah to the film critics. However, it probably won’t matter to the Hollywood execs because “M2M” is making a killing at the box office and that is plenty to keep a director in the business.

The most infuriating thing is how shamelessly the plot rips off other science fiction classics. The film starts off as “2001: A Space Odyssey”, then progresses to “2010: The Year We Make Contact”, moving on to the silly “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”, then finally stealing the end of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The producers of this movie may have thought this remedial version of these four movies put together would fool the general audience. Nice try but it didn’t fool me. Additionally, beware of films that have more than 2 people credited for the “story” and the “screenplay” titles. This usually means a troubled production where even good writers couldn’t save a bad idea. “M2M” has a total of SIX credited writers and story creators (keep in mind that there could have been even more that went unaccredited).

Although there are several positive points to this film, there isn’t enough to warrant spending money on it at the theater. Wait for video or be patient for the next “Mars” movie to come along, such as “Red Planet” that’s due out later this year. Better yet… go rent “Capricorn One” and watch O.J. Simpson fake a Mars landing. Besides, why see “M2M” when the previews and trailers ruined all of the surprises anyway.

Scale of 1-5:
2 (why not a 1 or 0? Read below…)

Most refreshing aspect of the movie:
The visual effects and the computer technology were impressive and sometimes beautiful. Although they won’t win any awards, they were the best part of this film. Most impressive was a shot of the astronauts walking around and showcasing the artificial gravity created by the rotating section of the ship.

Biggest gripe:
Here’s the short list… Bad acting. Bad script. Bad editing. Bad direction. The characters weren’t genuine. Tim Robbins’ character ignoring “red alerts” to make out with his wife. Bodies exposed to “zero atmosphere” should explode before they freeze and not vice-versa. The alien in the film looked ridiculous and was one of the worst CGIs (Computer Generated Images) I’ve seen in years. The score composed by the legendary Ennio Moriconne was a complete misfire. This film just went completely the wrong direction in what could have been an amazing adventure. If they would’ve done a straight movie like “Apollo 13” without the alien mess, it could have been spectacular. As it stands, this film will be forgotten quickly and joked about until then. I predict it will already be outdated in less than ten years.

Biggest surprise:
That this movie was green-lighted with such a terrible script attached. It’s amazing how such bad material can be fast-tracked though the Hollywood system, even when truly talented people are involved. It should never have failed on this many levels and will probably earn a “Razzie”, a parody of the Oscars that hands out awards to the worst, big-budget films of the year.

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