Mission to Mars (6-Mar-2000)|
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Lowell Cannon; Jim Thomas; John Thomas; Graham Yost
Keywords: Sci-Fi, Disneyland, Mars
Sci-fi thriller follows a rescue mission sent to investigate the first manned trip to Mars after a catastrophic failure dooms their voyage.
Four astronauts participating in the first-ever manned mission to Mars meet a terrible end when a strange extraterrestrial storm dooms their voyage, killing all but one Luke Graham. A rescue team led by compatriot Woody Blake heads out to investigate their unfortunate situation, soon endeavoring to get down to the bottom of a troubling mystery when they learn of the storm's artificial origin and connection to a strange face-like formation on the Red Planet.
Review by Walter Frith (posted on 8-Jun-2007)
Brian De Palma.
A man I have trouble accepting as a film director. Michael Cimino wins
the Oscar for directing 'The Deer Hunter' in 1978 and then flops big
time with 'Heaven's Gate', takes time off to recover and then is given
the opportunity to direct 1985's 'Year of the Dragon' and then he is
all but forgotten with the exception of only a few minor films since
then. De Palma gets huge budgets for his films and flops at almost
every single one of them. HOW DOES THIS MAN CONTINUE TO WORK IN
HOLLYWOOD? This can only be truly understood by the film buff who
shakes his or her head in disbelief whenever a Brian De Palma film
comes out. De Palma just doesn't understand sub text. His films all
have long static tracking shots of no interest and his films move along
usually at the pace of being stuck in a traffic jam. 'Mission to Mars'
has all of the ingredients of a Brian De Palma film without the usual
trait of trying to copy Alfred Hitchcock. It is 2020 and people are
still the same. They live in houses, have kids, barbecues, drink beer
and appreciate their friendships. Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise) is a man
still suffering the loss of his spouse. Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) is
the captain of the first human exploration to the red planet, Mars. Jim
and Luke take Woody Blake and Terry Fisher (Tim Robbins and Connie
Nielsen) and Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell) and a couple of other
astronauts with them. The space frontier holds many mysteries and NASA
has lost probes near Mars before so who knows if an exploration of Mars
should ever be attempted. Some believe that a cosmic whirlwind or some
other scientific force caused particles from Mars to drift to Earth and
that our ancestry and entire life force is indeed Martian in nature and
this is what 'Mission to Mars' tries to explain with an "in your FACE"
style of presentation. You'll know what I mean by the quotation marks
and capital letters after you've seen the film. Luke and some others
explore Mars and all are killed except for Luke and a rescue mission
begins to find them. This is the first major problem the film has and
it's a problem I had with Oliver Stone's 'Born on the Fourth of July'
in 1989. We go from one normal scene to a completely different one
without any transition in viewing it. In the case of Stone's film, it
showed Tom Cruise from his rainy prom night to his immediate tour of
duty in Vietnam. 'Mission to Mars' goes from Earth quickly to the
mission without showing us anything about the departure from our world.
A film needs a send off like the launching of Apollo 13 in the film of
the same name from 1995. 1997's 'Contact' had the major blast off shown
in quite a different way but at least it was there. You simply can't
get an audience fully interested in your main frame of story telling if
you don't show them how they get there in order to know where they're
going next. There is one totally tedious part of 'Mission to Mars'
where a space walk takes place in order to retrieve a craft and one of
the rescue crew dies and it is one of the most boring things you will
ever see on film. In 1984's '2010', we see two astronauts about to
board the Discovery. One is American and one is Russian. The space walk
is quick, timed perfectly with reflective dialogue of their situation
along the way. There are no long shots that go on and on and on. De
Palma had me looking at my watch several times during this scene and
during the film in general. The performances in this film are nothing
to rave about either. They are standard, lack depth and have only a
flurry of interest towards the end of the film. The film also has a
problem with theories and proof of geographical origins such as the
notion of continental drift. Many of the insights the film projects
about the world we know of make us say, "Okay, I've known or suspected
that for sometime. Why can't this movie create a situation or theory I
can think about long after I leave the theatre." Isn't that the point
of most good science fiction? About the only thing I liked in 'Mission
to Mars' were the visuals and the fact that the film did run under two
hours, thank God. It really looked and felt like Mars and being partial
to a good soundtrack, the film had many sound effects that provided
much needed ear candy and the eye candy helped out a great deal. The
film sort of feels like ordering from a menu in a restaurant and upon
finding out that they don't have your meal on the menu, you settle for
second best and comment that although you didn't get what you wanted,
it was still pretty good. De Palma does deserve some credit for this
film which is better in its second half but it still is a far cry from
good science fiction, which playing second fiddle to comedy, is the
hardest thing to pull off successfully in motion pictures. Let's hope
that De Palma doesn't try to be (intentionally) funny anytime soon.
Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith
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