- Directed by Brian De Palma
- March 10, 2000
After the first manned mission to Mars meets with disaster, a rescue mission is dispatched to find out what happened.
As I recall Mission to Mars came out when there was a bit of a Mars craze going on. Why do I say that? There was another film called Red Planet released the same year. I even think the planet itself was closer to Earth than it had been in quite some time. Anywho…
The story attempts to be deep science fiction in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And while it reaches for the stars it, does not always quite get them. More often than not it falls flat but that does not make it a bad movie. That just means it could have been better.
Not to reveal too much about the movie but it is revealed that the aliens who were from Mars started life on earth and then left their own planet for parts unknown. Why? They had a habitable planet right next-door but instead decided on interstellar travel? I like the idea that there is a greater mystery out there, but it really sticks in my craw that the Martians left our solar system for a destination towards the galactic core which is rife with radiation when something definitely habitable was next door in a galactic sense.
Mission to Mars blends science fact with a little bit of fantasy and alternative history. Specifically the history you might find in Ancient Aliens. The purported face on Mars located in the Cydonia region plays a major part in the plot of this film along with ancient astronauts/ancient aliens.
The cast is rather good for the era. Gary Sinise stars as Jim McConnell who is a recent widower who was to go on the ill-fated mission until he got bumped. Tim Robbins is the rescue mission commander Woody Blake. Connie Nielsen is Woody’s wife Terri Fisher who joins him on the rescue mission. Her job is a little fuzzy to me. Jerry O’Connell is rescue mission technician Phil Ohlmyer. Don Cheadle is Luke Graham who is the commander of the ill-fated mission. Kavan Smith, perhaps best known for his role as Maj. Lorne on SG1 and SGA, is Nicholas Willis of the first Mars crew. Armin Mueller-Stahl was everywhere for a period it seemed and shows up here as Ramier Beck.
The characters encounter a few obstacles along the way and rather than overcome them without much difficulty and move on to the next one they cause serious setbacks. Equipment is lost and the mission becomes more difficult as lives are lost so there is a high price to pay. This isn’t a fun adventure yarn but rather a story with serious consequences for those involved.
The costuming is believable-at least these days. When this came out, I thought they looked unbelievable. While in reality up until fairly recently NASA designs for space suits had not changed much the designs here look like the ones used currently by Space X or Blue Origin.
As with most science-fiction film set in the near future this one is now in the past. The film begins in 2020. They shot low here and we could not even do that. Anybody else bothered that older science fiction films are now more and more set in the past when upon release they were in the future? Blade Runner, The Running Man, and this along with so many others offered us a cool future and the best we could do was unlimited cat videos.
For the most part the special effects hold up. The sequence inside the face is one of the cooler ones I have seen in film in quite some time. It manages to get all the right feelings going. They aim for a sense of wonder and awe and achieve it.
My only complaint is the Martian that we see in that very sequence. Is the creature supposed to be how the species looked in general or is it supposed to be some kind of stylized version of how they looked? I know it’s a silly thing to worry about, but it bugs me. The back of the head is the style of the spaceship we see in the holographic history lesson and below the neck it’s this shimmering effect which I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be clothing or what.
Mission to Mars, while not perfect, is entertaining. It has an interesting story with some good performances and a convincing enough environment that you will enjoy it from start to finish. I say check this out!