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RED PLANET

SYNOPSIS
In the year 2050 the successful colonisation of Mars is humankind's only hope of survival as the long term effects of pollution move Earth closer to obliteration. A team of American astronauts led by Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Ann Moss) are sent on the first manned expedition to Mars. Their task is to investigate the failure of a terraforming project whose mission was to seed Mars with oxygen-producing algae. While Bowman remains on the mother ship, a crash landing leaves Gallagher (Val Kilmer), Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), Pettengil (Simon Baker), Santen (Benjamin Bratt) and Chantilas (Terence Stamp) stranded on Mars. With oxygen running out and their exploration robot malfunctioning Bowman defies orders to return to Earth and attempts a rescue mission.

"For Martian thrills you're still better off turning your attention to 50s anti-communist sci-fis like Angry Red Planet or Red Planet Mars than this dull visit to the fourth rock from the sun. It says something about this sluggish space opera that the most interesting character is the robot (called AMEE) who goes berserk and tries to knock off the stranded crew (in order of box-office importance, naturally). Red Planet sets high stakes for itself - a mission to save mankind, no less - then fails to deliver much more than a standard shipwreck scenario in spectacular surrounds. Attempts are made to introduce loftier subjects such as religion and philosophy but they fall flat, especially when delivered by Terence Stamp whose airy-fairy babble about finding god under a rock could be translated as "please get me out of this picture, I had much more fun in the Australian desert while I was wearing a dress". The infamous off-screen feud between Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer (they hardly spoke to each other during production) is also visible on screen. For two guys facing imminent death there's not a lot of bonding going on. Carrie-Ann Moss is also wasted; left on her own for most of the film in the command ship talking to her female-voiced computer when she'd be much better off on the ground showing off her Matrix-acquired physical skills. There are some isolated scenes which work, including the exploration module surrounded by balloons bouncing all over the rocky surface and some AMEE-acrobatics but it's a fairly dull affair which at least uses its Coober Pedy and Wadi Rum, Jordan locations to good advantage. Competent at best this at least presents value for money for its American financiers (only six main cast and a favourable exchange rate) but less for its audience who are given the odd dose of excitement and tension but not enough to make this journey memorable."
Richard Kuipers

"Early in Red Planet, it's hinted that the group of astronauts travelling to Mars may be about to discover the ultimate secret of the universe - God, perhaps, or a race of godlike aliens (as in Brian de Palma's underrated Mission To Mars, a textbook example of how a gifted director can transform a dodgy script). What they actually discover is... well, I won't give it away, but something much less thrilling and more scientifically plausible. The restraint is striking, and indicates that from one angle, this is a rare attempt by Hollywood to make a serious, non-cartoonish science-fiction film - examining 'real life' issues about how men might survive on Mars. (How would they deal with freak weather conditions and other hazards? What primitive life forms might they encounter?) But in other ways it's much more of a conventional blockbuster: the 'hard science' material is framed by an action-adventure storyline that's a string of cliffhangers and unlikely escapes. Most of the dialogue is predictably awful: when the characters aren't speaking in boilerplate technical jargon, they're delivering flip wisecracks that often seem so incongruous you'd swear the actors were improvising. This might be true in the case of Val Kilmer, who isn't the most plausible space cadet. Chunky and sullen, he tends towards a kind of internalised self-parody, and (unlike more modest actors such as Bruce Willis) never bothers to connect his particular sense of irony with anything going on in the rest of the film. The most enjoyable aspects of Red Planet, finally, are the familiar but stirring set-pieces of frantic noise and movement (such as the crash-landing on Mars). Here the film simply stops worrying about being convincing or believable: many of the more spectacular images are obviously computer-generated, while the screeches, beeps and explosions on the soundtrack have been carefully timed to blend with the percussive score."
Jake Wilson

"Thereís nothing so much wrong with Red Planet, itís just that this kind of sci-fi adventure has become very dated. Borrowing from far superior films like 2001:A Space Odyssey and Alien, thereís very little here that could be described as original by any stretch of the imagination. Thereís the obligatory love story; the whiny crew member whose presence is entirely superfluous; the kooky geneticist; and the so-called janitor played by Val Kilmer, who seems to know far too much about everything on the ship to be legitimate. Theyíre your run-of-the-mill space team, with the exception of AMEE, the next best thing to a commando robot dog. Some of the technical aspects are terrific though; including the excellent use of the landscape (it was partly filmed in Australia) and the special effects are stunning. Parts of the film seem to be almost 3D, and in todayís surround sound cinemas, made quite a few patrons jump. Sadly all the filmís star power does nothing for the actual performances, the best perhaps being Terence Stamp as the "scientist turned philosopher". Carrie-Anne Moss as Bowman is also reasonable, yet offers nothing really different from her role in The Matrix. It does manage to incorporate a few quirky references to real Mars missions, which at least provide some grounding in reality. But this certainly isnít enough to elevate it above the mundane. While Red Planet isnít as dreadful as the ill-starred Mission to Mars, itís nonetheless hardly a riveting cinematic experience."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

RED PLANET (M)
(US)

CAST: Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp, Bob Neill

DIRECTOR: Antony Hoffman, Jonathan Lemkin

PRODUCER: Bruce Berman, Mark Canton, Jorge Saraleguis

SCRIPT: Chuck Pfarrer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky

EDITOR: Robert K. Lambert

MUSIC: Graeme Revell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Owen Paterson

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Ent

VIDEO RELEASE: June 6, 2001







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