Movie Review: "Mission to Mars" (2000)
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.
"Mission to Mars" was the first of the two 'Mars' movies released in 2000, the other being "Red Planet". After ravaging the Earth with volcanoes and asteroids back-to-back, Hollywood had decided by the late '90s that it was time to go to Mars. So here we have a film about NASA's first mission to Mars (and the rescue mission which follows it).
See, first Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) leads a team of astronauts to the surface of Mars, his crew dies and he becomes stranded there for a year. His astronaut colleagues (Gary Sinese, Tim Robbins, Jerry O'Connel, and Connie Nielsen) set out to rescue him, but then they become in need of rescuing themselves.
It turns out there's some aliens hiding out nearby in a big rock that's in the shape of a face (Hey, they were going to make a movie about that alleged 'face on mars' sooner or later, too bad it had to be this one) that don't even lend one finger to help our characters until the very end of the film.
"Mission to Mars" takes potential ideas (i.e. the face on Mars and the theory that humans originally came from Mars) and plays its cards all wrong. From the corny soundtrack, the not-so epic first manned mission to Mars, to the stupid alien designs themselves. I bet this is one mission that Hollywood wishes it didn't embark on.
Mars Annual Summer BBQ
This crap-fest opens with a summer BBQ party for all the astronauts and their families, accompanied by a rock and roll soundtrack and a miniature toy rocket launching into the sky. Cue the corny jokes and an array of filler. Way to go on making your first impression to the audience, "Mission to Mars". Based on this opening, I'm guess this is going to be one of those light-hearted sci-fi family films with friendly aliens and plenty of Disney-ish shenanigans.
I thought this was going to be a realistic take on the first manned mission to Mars? If I wanted to watch a Steven Spielberg family film about aliens, then I'll go watch "E.T.". A mission to Mars, huh? So far, based on this opening sequence, it doesn't look like the space shuttle is taking off any time soon.
How's About a Little Music?
Music can definitely make or break your movie. Unfortunately, it breaks "Mission to Mars". The soundtrack of this film is akin to some space exhibit or theme park ride. Wait a second, doesn't Gary Sinese play an astronaut in a Disney theme park ride where guests participate in a Mars mission simulation? Hmm...
The many cues in this music are extremely light-hearted as well as extremely devoid of any awe that should be present in a film like this. Either way, both are extreme in a negative sense, just like the script itself. Even what it attempts to do something different during the zero gravity dance scene, it sounds like a Western frontier tune (WTF?).
Married in Space
Aside from the soundtrack, this has to be perhaps the most annoying aspect of "Mission to Mars" -- Woody Blake and Terri Fisher (Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen), otherwise known as the astronaut couple by NASA and martians. There's so many cringeworthy scenes involving them in this movie, some of these consist of a zero gravity dance in a space shuttle and the most ridiculous death scene in space (complete with fake tears and all).
Speaking of that death scene, never before have I seen an actress try so hard at attempting to cry. This scene is more funny than it is sad, I mean what was director Brian De Palma thinking when he filmed this scene? Did he really think that was the best take he could get out of Connie Nielsen?
Thank God we didn't have people or scenes like this in "2001: A Space Odyssey", that would have brought it down several notches from being the masterpiece that it is, it's a good thing Dave Bowman's wife stayed her behind back on Earth. There's a lot of romance in "Mission to Mars", in fact, there's more than what needs to be there. Not only are Woody and Terri a couple, but our main character Jim (Gary Sinese) was actually married to an astronaut as well (she passed away before the start of the film though).
Maybe they should have changed the title of this movie from "Mission to Mars" to "The Romancing of Mars" or perhaps "Mars & Juliet". Anyone else got some corny titles for a corny romance?
They Come in Peace
Let's talk about what was supposed to be one of the highlights of "Mission to Mars" -- the aliens themselves. Unfortunately, they're nothing spectacular or unique in any way whatsoever. They're thin, tall walking CGI turds. I must emphasize the CGI-ness of these aliens here, they appear to be way too cartoonish.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they popped up in one of those Disney/Pixar animated space films like "Mars Needs Moms" ("Mars Needs Moms"? WTF!? Really, Disney? Really!?). "Mission to Mars" would have been better off either not showing the aliens at all or dropping some very clever and mysterious hints at them.
Random Things That Make No Sense
- Why is Gary Sinese wearing eyeliner?
- Why didn't the aliens help Luke during the twelve months he was stranded on Mars?
- Were the aliens planning to bring Jim back after giving him a tour of their new planet?
- In addition to showing our characters the origins of the human race and offering one of them a free ride to outer space, why didn't the aliens share some of their technology as well? It could have been useful in avoiding a global catastrophe similar to what the martians went through, don't you think?
Remedies for "Mission to Mars"
- Ban all married astronauts from space.
- Axe the soundtrack in favor for something a bit more mysterious.
- The story should look up more to films like "2001: Space Odyssey" as opposed to a lame version of "E.T.".
- If you're going to have aliens in a movie like this, either don't show them completely or give us a better design.
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