The special effects are out of this world in director Anthony Hoffman’s gripping Aussie-made 2001 sci-fi thriller, which provides an entertaining visual treat with its splendidly realised vision of Mars in the future.
Mission commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss) is the pilot of the most important mission of the 21st century, heading to Mars to save the human race. It’s 2050, Earth is dying and colonising Mars is the only alternative to obliteration. But what happens when Bowman and her crew get there is far more terrifying than anyone would have guessed.
A crash landing leaves them without scientific, communication or escape equipment, and causes their military mapping and exploration robot to malfunction into a deadly enemy. But as the landing team (Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker, Benjamin Bratt) explores the harsh new planet, they have the most terrifying discovery of all. Mars may be barren, but it’s also inhabited.
The downside is a very talky and boring opening section before the Mars sequences, too many nods to other, better sci-fi films, especially 2001: A Space Odyssey, a rotten, unconvincing performance by Terence Stamp as Chantilas, and a rather ordinary group-jeopardy story that proceeds incoherently in stops and starts, and leaves evidence of belated cutting.
The upside is a genuinely brilliant recreation of life on Mars, the great visual effects, a taut, eerie, downbeat atmosphere, decent performances by Kilmer, Sizemore and Moss, good monsters in the robot and scary bugs, and some sequences of real tension and excitement.
The story and screenplay are by Chuck Pfarrer, with Jonathan Lemkin.
© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Movie Review 707 derekwinnert.com
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