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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.

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Lynda Boyd
28-Jan-1965   Rose Miller on Republic of Doyle
Don Cheadle
29-Nov-1964   Boogie Nights
Kim Delaney
29-Nov-1961   Det. Diane Russell on NYPD Blue
Story Musgrave
19-Aug-1935   Spent 1281 hours in space
Elise Neal
14-Mar-1966   Yvonne on The Hughleys
Connie Nielsen
3-Jul-1965   Gladiator
Jerry O'Connell
17-Feb-1974   Pete Kaczmarek in The Defenders
Peter Outerbridge
30-Jun-1966   David Sandstrom on ReGenesis
Tim Robbins
16-Oct-1958   The Player, Jacob's Ladder
Carlo Rota
17-Apr-1961   Little Mosque on the Prairie
Gary Sinise
17-Mar-1955   Det. Taylor on CSI: NY
Kavan Smith
6-May-1970   Maj. Evan Lorne on Stargate: Atlantis


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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