Red Planet (2000): **1/2
Red Planet is so much better than 2000's other Mars movie, Mission to Mars, and yet it had such a lesser director and less of an A-list cast. Huh. Just goes to show that nothing can overcome a script that is a piece of crap.
This movie actually has a pretty good script. It's got some of the things that all Mars movies have to have in them (for some reason): a disaster strikes the ship right when it gets to Mars, they're stuck on the surface for some reason, and there's some mysterious Martian presence. But beyond that, there were some good things about this movie.
I actually liked the mystery that was the main focus of this movie. I very much appreciated that the main focus of this movie was a mystery. I liked that they actually used real science to try to figure things out in the movie (Val Kilmer jokes about algebra saving their lives at one point). There are a couple of riveting scenes, when the characters think they are going to suffocate to death, and we actually spend about five minutes with them as they go through their agonies. And then there is what Ebert called the "fireworks" scene, which is spectacular and original and surprising.
One of the things I liked best about this movie was, surprisingly, Val Kilmer's performance. His space janitor is not some big action movie hero, or science fiction hero, for that matter. He's not some cocky regular joe who bashes it into your face that he's just a regular guy. Val Kilmer's character is just a guy who happens to be on Mars. And I found that immensely appealing.
Some problems I had with the movie: There is an unneccesary killer robot on the loose trying to murder the cast members. THere was no reason to have that; the characters are marooned on Mars fer chrissake, how tense do you want this movie to be?. And my biggest complaint is that they spend the first half of the movie very effectively building up this seemingly unsolvable mystery, but then the movie loses focus and becomes just about the characters getting off of Mars, so that when it comes time to actually solve the mystery, the solution is just kinda thrown in and then pushed aside so that the movie can concentrate on getting the characters off of Mars. But the mystery was the interesting part, not the escape from Mars.
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