When the first manned mission to Mars meets with a catastrophic and mysterious disaster after reporting an unidentified structure, a rescue mission is launched to investigate the tragedy and bring back any survivors.
In 2020, a crew of astronauts has been prepared for a two-year international mission in Mars. Jim McConnell, Woody Blake and his wife Terri Fisher, Luke Graham and Phil Ohlmyer are best friends and Jim lost his chance to land on Mars when his beloved wife Maggie McConnell died. The team of four astronauts land on Mars but a mysterious storm kills three of them and only Luke survives. A rescue team with Woody in command and Jim, Terri and Phil heads to the red planet and discovers that only Luke has survived. Their further investigation shows that the storm that killed the three other astronauts was artificial and created to protect a Face that lies on Mars. What might be the intriguing Face? Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's cooperation and assistance does not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film or the treatment of the characters depicted therein. See more »
After a second viewing, I can say that I am still not sure what to make of this film. Many will see this as something of a remake of 2001. And yes, the film is visually almost plagiaristic of the Kubrick masterpiece. The two biggest problems are a lack in originality and thoughtfulness. From my rating, you can see that I did not despise this film. It's visually nice, and the performances are all good. However, I am not sure I can recommend it.
I'm a sci-fi fan, and a scientist, so I was initially intrigued by the notion of a big-name dramatic film-maker doing a sci fi epic, which appeared, at least initially, to be hardcore sci-fi. By hardcore sci-fi, I mean fiction based on scientific reality, not fantasy with a tiny bit of science thrown in for decoration. An example, also using Mars as a vehicle, is Ben Bova's novel "Mars" - which focuses on the very edge of plausibility, only occasionally overstepping the bounds of scientific possibility. Film has rarely achieved this - a few interesting exceptions are Alien (the original), Outland and Silent Running. Hardcore sci-fi, which, I argue, this film could and should have been, is careful about that boundary. And 3/4ths of the way through Mission to Mars, it's still a hardcore sci-fi flick. Then suddenly, it's something else. I will leave that something else for you to discover, and stay focused on what the director and screenwriter were trying to do here.
What we have here is not really a single plot, but a pastiche of plots that have been strung together into one long, mysterious and grandiose story line. The film starts out with a couple of scenes which might have been lost in Appollo 13 - providing a little bit of character development and letting us know that we are about to witness the first manned space flight to Mars. That flight ends pretty quickly, as virtually everything goes wrong. And as a rescue mission begins, the question then becomes, why is everything going wrong? Up to the point where the rescue mission enters Martian orbit, this central question is sustained and developed skillfully, but then , in my opinion, things start to go wrong with the film itself.
There are major problems with what could have been the best aspects of this film. The spaceships are remarkably flimsy and poorly designed, but they look great! The safety protocols for the mission, about which we hear so much, are either not followed or incredibly naive. The heroes are not particularly clever about heroism, and seem to forget, at times, what the actual possibilities are for mobility in space (why not use the tether three times - twice out to Woody and once to get back after you run out of fuel, Terry?). The guy who authored the safety protocols does not appear particularly concerned with safety, or even protocols. The evolutionary biologist on the crew is amazingly poorly informed about the Paleozoic period of earth history and the evolution of species. I could go on.
The film is broadly derivative of 2001 A Space Oddyssey, The Abyss, Star Gate, Event Horizon, Fifth Element, Contact, and a few dozen other somewhat entertaining but not particularly believable space / sci-fi adventures, but while it resembles, and in fact pays homage to these films (especially 2001), it never entertains quite as well. Why? Because these films do not pretend to be based on scientific ideas, but rather, aesthetics and humanism. While most of these films invite interpretation, Mission to Mars simply repeats ideas from previous films and doesn't even bother to recast them into an interesting new light. Mission to Mars is something that has been done many times before, and in more interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking ways.
Technical proficiency, which is something this film exudes, is no substitute for a compelling story and interesting individual characters. Unfortunately, even in terms of technique, the film has some flaws. Some will disagree, but I found the soundtrack irritating, and the pace of the film very uneven to say the least. And the characters lives are so intertwined in the few character development sequences that only Sinise, Robbins and Bennings' characters develop rudimentary individualities.
Despite his reputation, I can not hold Brian De Palma up to standards which are different than those of other film-makers, and I can not condone creating a special vocabulary or a sophisticated argument to permit interpretation of his films as part of some over-arching theme which only he and a few of his fans understand. There is a fine line between flattering imitation and shameless copying, so I'd rather not get into an extrapolated meta-film discussion of this film's relationship to 2001. I don't think this film is worthy of such a sophisticated analysis.
There are some truly great moments in Mission to Mars. This should not be too surprising with the wonderful cast, big budget, and talented production team. What did surprise me about this film was the 2001-like 180 degree turn it took off of the map of scientific possibility 3/4ths of the way through the film, and I can't say that turn and its outcome really impressed me.
If you're a sci-fi fan, or somebody with a very casual interest in science, you should probably see this. But if you haven't seen 2001 first, by all means, wait until you have. And don't take this one too seriously when you do get around to it. This has much more to do with fiction than science fiction.
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