Mission to Mars (2000) Poster

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Beautiful film with heart
Rfischer865530 September 2013
This is a beautiful movie on many levels. It's fascinating and believable science fiction and gorgeously produced. Cinematography and special effects are first rate with a most intriguing story line that reminds me of that other excellent science fiction movie, "2001", which I think this equals.

This is not the typical Spielberg/Lucas comic book sci-fi flick as seen with Star Wars or Star Trek. There's an artistry and depth here that pulls you in emotionally on many levels. The acting is excellent as is the outstanding musical score - Ennio Morricone was at his best here.

The story and music go so well together and have a level of emotional impact that's rare these days. I don't at all understand the cynical view of this movie taken by others. I was shocked that the cable TV rating system gives it only one and a half stars. In France, it was rated the 4th best movie of the year.

There must be some psychological damage with American audiences. My personal suspicion is that this movie explains life's origins outside the context of religion, and in the American Puritan culture, this isn't liked, accepted, or tolerated. The way the film portrays human origin, evolution, and development doesn't jibe with their biblical and religious traditional beliefs based on God and creationist stories. What a pity.

I highly recommend this movie as one of the all time best in science fiction.
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One of the years BEST!
BrettGarrett7 May 2003
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I thought Brian DePalma presented a realistic future and didn't settle for either Fairy Tale "Every one wins" situation, or "Everyone dies but one last guy" action movie genre situation.

Earth wasn't in trouble, we were still all just plodding along, exploring space to the best of our abilities, just as we are now. Yes there have been technological advances in DePalma's vision of the future, but we're not all wearing silver spandex suits and beaming ourselves from one place to another either.

I thought that the acting was fine, and the pace, while a little slow, does help to create the sense that it takes time to get anything done, or go anywhere, in space.

The graphics and special effects don't have to be cutting-edge whiz bang. DePalma based them on REALITY. Things that we see every day with space shuttle lift offs and mars explorer units being operated by remote control.

If you like Science Fiction that's based on Science Reality, you should like this movie. If you like Science fiction based on Aliens blowing things up, you would not.
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Unfairly Bashed
jpb3210 March 2000
I have seen many reviews bashing Mission to Mars. I see why they've attacked the film but I think they missed that the excitement, action and deep humanity of this film far outweigh the forced quality of a few scenes. There is scene after scene in this movie that pulls the viewer's heart and mind nto some of the deepest veins of human emotion. More than once I felt myself drawn into the middle of intense depictions of love, terror or excitement. If a little subtlety were mixed into just a few scenes this movie would have stood out as one of the greatest and lasting human dramas in science fiction history. I heartily recommend this movie; it will transport you and involve you if you are just a little forgiving.
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A Visually Stunning and Vastly Underrated Film
gws-28 August 2003
Visually, "Mission to Mars" is stunning. Nobody tells a story better with pictures than De Palma. The scenic design and photography kept me riveted to every frame. On the recommendation of a friend, I watched the movie in widescreen on DVD using a high resolution monitor. The visuals are so important that I cannot imagine watching a pick and scan version on a conventional TV set. Too much would be lost that way.

The scene, early in the movie, where one of the Mars astronauts gets blown up made me levitate. Also, I though Tim Robbins' and Connie Nielsen's weightless dance in the spaceship on the way to Mars was lovely. The scene with the startling all white surroundings that the astronauts faced in the "faceship" (to coin a phrase) was also well done.

I thought the performances were uniformly excellent. That fact and the wonderful visuals overcame sometimes excruciatingly bad dialogue so that it did not really detract from my enjoyment of the film. That being said, though, I loved the exchange where it was observed by one character that the mere three per-cent difference between the genetic makeup of men and apes "gave us Einstein, Mozart" and a second character adds, "Jack the Ripper."

Some reviewers complained about the similarity of the film to "2001," but that is exactly what De Palma had in mind, I think. "Mission to Mars" pays homage to every sci-fi cartoon and movie ever made, from Buck Rogers to "Close Encounters," and does it well. Anyway, De Palma proved to me again that he really does march to his own drummer. I was hugely entertained and highly recommend this film -- but only if you watch it in widescreen on DVD or, better still, in a theater. Eight out of ten.
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The Eye of God
tedg29 November 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

In my experience, there is no filmmaker like De Palma. As with Kubrick and Greenaway, you have to know what to expect going into a theater, because they do not concern themselves with storytelling in the ordinary sense. De Palma doesn't make films about life, and is unconcerned with the drama one normally finds there.

He makes films about films, and since the target is an abstraction in the first place, the dramatic focus is flat, the acting obvious, the stories predictable -- all by design. By definition, we've already been wherever he goes. The value of the experience is in how he takes something that is ordinary and examines it in new ways. Its the 1890s Paris painting scene, where the eye is everything.

We've seen him do Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Antonioni, and more. Here he tackles Kubrick, and the results are astounding.

Kubrick does an end-on entrance of a spaceship with majestic passing; De Palma does too, and then enters a window to show Robbins and wife in an elaborate view, dancing the camera around them with Robbin's face reflected just incidentally. Kubrick has a clever shot of a man walking around the gravity ring; De Palma elaborates on this a hundred-fold with comings and goings and ups and ins and reversals until we are dizzy. 2001's spaceships were the stuff of pulp covers, but here we have even accurate rivet patterns, everything scrupulously close to NASA specs. 2001 has a cheap Kaleidoscope passage and some clean room visions when the makers are encountered. M2M's `makers' are encountered in an ever-cleaner, ever more abstract room.

Incidentally, in the only clever element of the script, those makers show images of how they `seeded' Earth, with an ambiguity between the making of the image and the act itself.

One doesn't go to a film like this expecting a traditional Lucas-like ride. This is intelligent, self-referential stuff targeting not the mind but the eye. I suppose a question is whether it can also be entertaining for kids. I suspect not. Kubrick himself never tried. The fault is with the marketeers who try and sell these films in the same way as simple thrill rides. Shame on them. Regrets to all the ticketbuyers expecting Spielbergisms.

If you are an IMDB visitor and reading this, chances are you are serious about film. If so, I recommend that you see 2001, then this in one evening. Forget about story, acting, drama, and focus on where these gents take your eye. The thrill is that you become God -- what higher fantasy do you wish?
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A difficult derivative sci-fi film
mstomaso21 May 2005
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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A Visual Masterpiece
johnm_00113 October 2000
So many critics blasted Brian De Palma's "Mission To Mars", that I feel I must have seen an entirely different film. Perhaps people were expecting "Armageddon", or any other number of "space" films. This is a film about people, not space. People who are great friends on earth, who must face challenges to their friendships and their humanity, while in space and on Mars. They could just as easily have been in Kansas. Brian De Palma (the greatest living visual director), takes us on a glorious journey, with his camera. The sets and special effects never overshadow the actors, who blend in seamlessly, to create a visual treat for the eyes. This is a tender and moving film about people and their relationships. It's a beautiful film, told in a very slow, deliberate manner. It pays homage to many other films, but it is its own entity; unlike any other "space" movie you have ever seen. The film features wonderful performances from its cast, an effective score by Ennio Morricone, and peerless direction from Brian De Palma. The nature of its stunning visuals demand that this film be seen in widescreen, ONLY. Highly recommended!
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Sci-fi -- for the thinking spectators, that is
Alcator1 December 2006
No laser beams. No alien attackers coming to consume Earth. No Will Smith and no Charlize Theron in sexy outfit. Not frightened yet? Read on...

I saw this movie in a cinema with my girlfriend - a Physics teacher. What we both liked was how it followed laws of physics - it was perhaps the first sci-fi we saw which showed properly how space works and what vacuum is all about.

I read in one review that the scene where they raise the USA flag is pathetic, when they should be running into the base to look for survivors; I disagree: Since they arrived nearly a year AFTER the incident, rushing doesn't make any sense.

I liked the "puzzle" part of the movie, as well as the final moments when the truth is revealed. Some laughed at that point, but I liked it a lot.

Remember how Space Odyssey plays with the idea that the intelligent life on Earth might be a product of "targetted imprinting"? Well, M2M suggests yet another possibility, and I find that extremely appealing.

The cast seemed brave to me: No top-class stars, no pretty faces, but instead good actors that are believable (after all, Garry Sinise played in Apollo 13 and Jerry O'Connell played a similar role in "The Sphere").
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De Palma's Odyssey
dvc515917 August 2013
Brian De Palma's "Mission to Mars", scorned by critics upon its release in early 2000, is not deserving of so. It has its flaws, yes, and it certainly can be overbearing at times, but I'd take a filmmaker who goes over the top any day over a filmmaker who doesn't give a damn.

Loosely based on the Disney Tomorrowland attraction, De Palma utilizes his crew to their fullest extent, specifically his cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and composer Ennio Morricone, and delivers an exciting action/adventure with the fundamentals of true science fiction. But De Palma, always the mischievous filmmaker, toys with his audience, both fulfilling and averting genre conventions to them. Even the film's opening act where - some thing - causes a team of astronauts to go on a rescue mission to the Red Planet, completely seems out of place, but knowing De Palma, this is exactly what he wants.

An addition to the boom of space exploration movies following the success of "Apollo 13", De Palma's film doesn't concern itself with the story so much so as how De Palma wants he audience to feel the story. De Palma and Burum dance their way to elaborate, hypnotic camera movements while the great movie maestro Ennio Morricone provides the symphony for said dance. The camera weaves through the interiors of the spaceships every which way it can, and on the surface of the Red Planet it exudes a terrific sense of wonder and mystery, something akin to the golden years of science fiction.

Some of the dialog is hokey and some moments admittedly goofy, but again, this also could be a throwback to the Golden sci-fi era, and besides, De Palma wastes no time on those trivial script moments. He is more of an artist than a storyteller, but there is a story being told here, and the journey is indeed mesmerizing and a lot of fun to watch. De Palma and the producers also made the right choice in picking genuine talent for the characters and not the superstar of today.

And then there are the effects. Both practical and computer-generated are put to heavy use here, and the results are nothing short of spectacular, even by today's standards. (OK, well maybe not a sequence near the end). It can really be seen for itself, that actual imagination and talent went into the production design of the film, even though it clearly evolved from Kubrick's Odyssey. The effects do not just serve as pretty eye candy, De Palma utilizes them to bring out an awesome exhilaration and sense of wonder from the audience. Again, playing with them, like a piano.

What I think really divided audiences and critics alike was the climactic act of the film, which some would consider it as "Space Odyssey"-lite. I do not find that an insult to Kubrick, rather I find it complementary that, in today's science fiction films that results in George Lucas mentality, that here is a director that pays the perfect tribute to both the greatest science fiction film of all time, as well as its creator.

Ultimately, "Mission to Mars" is a brave and severely underrated blockbuster that, not only is it exciting and hypnotic to watch, but leaves so much to the imagination long after the main story is finished. This is delicious eye candy high on nutrition. Before you set your kids on "2001: A Space Odyssey", let them see this first.

De Palma is a post-modern filmmaker, a director who shows his love of movies by making other movies (especially his love of Hitchcock in many of his earlier films like "Blow Out", "Sisters" and "Body Double"), and allows film fans to play games with him by watching them. The main difference from other filmmakers who do the same than De Palma, is that he genuinely exudes his own playful style to the film he works on, no matter a low budget art-house indie, or a big-budget studio blockbuster. If De Palma decides to return to big-budget filmmaking (as of this writing, it is his last studio picture) I would really love to see what this American auteur can come up next.
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Hits home as a solidly great sci-fi movie
Cent-310 March 2000
In this day and age of computer generated eye candy, it is very common to see movies that are based solely on special effects and nothing else. Movies like Wing Commander have great graphics, but the story line and acting leave you back at the ticket booth.

Mission to Mars does not fit in this category. When I saw previews, the special effects looked great, but I could also tell that there was a plot to this movie. For once, I was right on the mark. Mission to Mars made you think about what was happening and what the consequences were going to be. The suspense takes a firm grip on one's eyelids and pulls them up to the ceiling.

What truly makes this movie stand above others of its ilk is the great acting of the characters. In sci-fi shoot 'em ups, the viewer develops a way of not caring for the characters, as they are uncreative and inflexible. Mission to Mars made me care about every single character; I was eagerly awaiting every twist and relished every event.

The climax (which I will not at all spoil) was hair raising and at the end extremely satisfying. Upon leaving the theater I quickly realised that I haven't seen a better movie all year.

I give every recommendation I know to go see this movie. And, by the way, look out for some foreshadowing. It's in there.
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My Review
greaseistheword20007 March 2000
My Mission to Mars was a pleasant adventure. Departing from today's incessant need to combine blood curling aliens with one's travels through space, Mission to Mars provides an intelligent ultimatum. The film lies somewhere in between 2001, The Abyss and Lost in Space, forcing us to examine our roles as humans throughout the ages in this unexplored territory. Sprinkle a touch of action, and a pinch of suspense, and you have yourself a sci-fi film for the new millennium.

The film stars such veteran actors as Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, and Jerry O'Connell; an ensemble where only first-class acting is possible. So let us move onto the direction. It is Brian DePalma's foray into science fiction. And masterfully done to say the least. His shot composition is reminiscent of Scarface and The Untouchables, mixing filmmaking from the days of yore with today's MTV aesthetic. DePalma's talent for filming suspenseful action sequences is in full swing in this film. The spacewalk scene will be one that will not be forgotten for quite some time. Could possibly be one of the best spacewalk scenes in films to date. The hidden jewel for me was the unpredictability of the film. Each corner turned was a pleasant surprise. I can't remember that last time I saw a movie with this quality, especially coming out of the Hollywood mainstream.

The cinematography was astounding. Imagine Lawrence of Arabia lensed on Mars. Professor Jenkins from Scientific America was correct when he said that the images from the film were identical to those photographed from the actual planet. And that is not a small feat.
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The most realistic space movie ever
zwerg10525 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Some of the scenes are literally cinematic history. If people got off on 2001 by Kubrik, they should be putting a shrine to this one. The drama that unfolds in the space scenes is out of this world. Not since Dr. Zhivago have I seen more grand film making. The cinematic score is embedded so well it feels like a direct extension of the visual cortex. Ennio Morricone has not written more fitting music since The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

I initially was put off by the ending. I guess I felt it fizzles into a Utopian aliens-are-like-us kind of escape from better screen writing. Well I still am disappointed. But that can never take away from the breathtaking accomplishment that is the first 4/5ths of the movie.
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A true sci-fi movie: Real and moving!
Rhythm-216 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
You would think that we were reviewing "Attack of the Space Pimps" by most of the comments written about this movie. As an avid sci-fi reader and movie watcher, I was impressed by the reality and moving aspect of this film. "Mission To Mars" is a very good sci-fi movie.

The acting is well done and REAL. These are astronauts. Trained professionals that have to deal with extraordinary situations or die a terrible death. The relationship between the astronauts is portrayed in a REAL manner (even down to Robbins selfless sacrifice). All of this moved me greatly. The awesome moment when the first crew finds the face on Mars and unwittingly activates its "defense system" (and they just stand there in complete awe), is REAL. The life-altering moments inside the Mars face, is REAL. REAL reactions to extraordinary situations is what MADE "Mission To Mars".

What were you expecting? A slimy creature that absorbs the astronauts lifeforce? A testesterone-laced ending like "Armageddon" (drilling through unknown metal with Earth-made drills and Bruce Willis' gruff determination)? A Will Smith cool line ending such as in "Independence Day"?

"Mission To Mars" is awe-inspiring to say the least!
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Forget the Critics!
BigRich25 March 2000
I thought this movie was GREAT! People are forgetting the fact that they are seeing a MOVIE! And this movie Rocks (The mind). This movie is for the hardcore Sci-Fi fans, like myself. Yep, I like seeing space, space stations, planets, aliens and stuff other people might find boring.

I thought is was facinating that the base camp on Mars was so close to the "Mars Face". Of all the places that NASA has sent probes (in real life) they seem to be going to the wrong areas. It's like someone from another planet sending probes to the North or South pole on Earth and expecting to find life or signs of life there. I'm not implying that there really is something up there on Mars but just thinking from the scientific side of reality of what if?

I read and heard all the negative reviews on this movie and I had to set them aside and see it for myself, and I'm glad I did. My girlfriend was upset that I didn't take her to see it and I'm kinda sad that I didn't. Maybe next time.
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Giving Breath To Imagination
logik18 March 2000
When did we as a society lose our imagination?

Having seen Mission to Mars on opening night, I was a little surprised by the undeniably negative reviews that it had received. With disparaging comments lashed here and there about a weak script and tacky characterizations, I was left with the distinct feeling that we have given up film as a medium of entertainment only to have it serve our seemingly needful purpose of artsy criticism. So it's not Titanic...it's better. It's pure imagination to its fullest-the whole premise of "what if" and "what lies beyond" is beautifully encompassed in a film that crafts plot, SPFX, and strong acting into a fabulous hour and a half ride to the Heavens. It's courage, it's friendship, it's the bravery to look beyond.

Mission to Mars carries a magic that once was in the world of film-making, and those true explorers among us will appreciate its insight into space travel and planetary evolution. I congratulate the cast and crew of Mission to Mars, and thank them for bringing a little bit of the Red Planet to us back home. I am in your debt.
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Exquisitely bad
Wizkids117 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you're a Sci-fi fan like me, you will find this movie competes only with the other worst Sci-fi title in our contemporary times, War of the Worlds by Spielberg.

This movie is crud from the start. First, we are to believe that NASA now seeks out married couples to fly in space - ain't gonna happen in real life. Then, when a rescue mission is called for on Mars the decision to launch one is not made by NASA (as real life might have it) its made by the star-studded cast.

As the stupidity rolls on in this film you can find some parts that are just plain horrible writing. For example, the crew flies this amazing hi-tech spaceship to Mars, but just before landing they have a fuel leak. Somehow, someone forgot to put a fuel pressure gage in the ship?!?!? Then we get treated to some of the WORST acting you will ever see. Up to this point in the film we are supposed to believe that Tim Robbins and Connie Neilsen - married in the plot - are deeply in love. But when Robbins 'heroically' dies trying to save the ship, within 10 minutes Connies seems to be 'over it'. We see no further effects that she has lost a husband - and in fact, boy did she recover quickly.

You, as the viewer, are then treated to more insults to your intelligence when the crew finds Don Cheadle there on Mars where he has been stranded for many months. Oddly though, Cheadle has no problem breathing on Mars - hmmm, must have brought his own atmosphere - and shock of shocks, he has plenty of electricity to run his fancy computer (which answers all the technical questions) even though he has been there long after batteries would have run out.

Now that DePalma has you completely in his power (if you're stupid enough to keep watching) he then lays the biggie on you. Where did Earth's population come from? Mars. Yup, years ago they "seeded" our planet before leaving their own decaying world. This might be a nice premise for a movie, but here of course, its just the vehicle to "explain" what to that point has been the mystery in a tedious and boring movie.

But the ultimate insult awaits for us in DePalma's utterly ridiculous end of the movie. Gary Sinese will now join the long-exiled Martians somewhere in another galaxy. Yup - but how does he get there? A water pipe essentially... Ya, so much for writing.

What I find most amazing about Mission to Mars is that fine actors like Sinese, Tim Robbins, Connie Neilsen, Don Cheadle and many others MUST have read this script first - HOW they could have signed on to this mess is beyond me. Must have been good money.

Mission to Mars is without doubt one of the worst Sci-fi movies in history, asking you the viewer to ignore stupidity, lousy writing, factual blunders about space flight, and a cast that seems so 'numb' to the horribly crafted mess that they just 'do the lines' to get the darn thing done.

This movie, along with such classic crud as Spielberg's War of the Worlds, or Alien versus Predator, belongs in a Sunday marathon of Sci-fi movies where the Director presumes his audiences are brain-dead. Certified garbage - from start to end.
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Another great idea down the drain
Rammstein-23 August 2000
I'm disappointed. No, actually, I'm sad. No, in fact, Iäm rather angry - I have never seen such a great and wonderful idea be turned into something so insanely sappy and corny and cheesy and stupid in my entire life.

It could have been so fantastic - it could have been a "Contact"-class sci-fi flick. Instead, we are served the lowest kind of americanism: staring into space; uttering "Oh my God" a hundred times and at every single event, small or great; A crying alien - PLEASE!; holding hands; the mandatory loss of someone dear; the lone hero who has nothing to lose and so on and on and OOOONNNNNNNN!!!!!! There is only one leniency to be found: it IS fairly scientific and believable, except for the fantastic feat of landing the satellite thingy exactly on the spot.

This is by far the most disappointing film I have seen. It is always terrible to see a really bad movie, but it's a lot worse when they trick you into thinking it could actually be worth watching. This one certainly isn't...
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Keeps getting better
tieman6410 May 2008
Throughout his career, Brian De Palma's sensibilities have been at odds with mainstream audiences. He's a trickster and a formalist, and those looking for realism and carefully sketched characters are often left confused by his constant homages and emphasis on technique.

"Mission to Mars" introduces its playful intentions with its very first shot. A toy rocket, accompanied by carnival music, shoots up into the air and explodes. De Palma is here to play with his toys. The very next scene is an overly elaborate long-take in which all the film's characters, their loves and losses, are introduced.

As a formalist, De Palma often calls attention to the artificiality of art. Here he has two astronauts holding video cameras as a CGI beast veers toward them. We focus on Don Cheadle's eyes as he watches these two film-makers, the word "synthetic" stencilled in bold letters behind him. This whole action scene is fake, created for the audience. De Palma wants you to focus not on story, but the design and look of the thing. Likewise, the aliens at the end of the film are themselves artists who've designed man. As such, they demonstrate this knowledge to their audience (the astronauts) with a "film".

De Palma once said that space travel and scientific conquest are the only things that he can generate genuine optimism for, and one feels this in "Mission to Mars". The film has an overwhelming sense of earnestness. De Palma characters have never seemed so pure, optimistic, good natured and filled with humanity. There's no cynicism or bitterness here. Upon first viewing I found this all very cheesy, but now, coupled with Ennio Moricone's sweeping and romantic score, I find the film's broad brushstrokes very moving.

"Mission" also continues De Palma's trend of turning classic films on their side. He's done this to Hitch, Fellini, Anotonioni and Hawks. Now he does it to Kubrick (one scene literally has "2001: A Space Odyssey's" monolith on it's side).

Does this make De Palma a hack? No, It makes him a giddy delight if you're a film fan. "Mission to Mars" is a bit more straightforward than "2001," it's a little friendlier, but it's practically the same movie. Just replace the monolith with the "Mars face," and drop Hal. Both films' spaceships also look alike, and the white room used in the climactic scene strongly resembles the room at the end of "2001." And of course, where Kubrick gave us spaceships dancing the waltz, De Palma gives us astronauts dancing in zero gravity.

But De Palma doesn't stop at Kubrick. His film has a character named Luke who spends one scene talking about a mysterious "force" (Star Wars), a spaceship commanded by a man named Jim (Star Trek), and many overt reference to "Flash Gordon", "Robinson Crusoe" and "Teasure Island". Noticing that his tale is a virtual rehash of "The Abyss", De Palma also tips his hat to James Cameron by having Gary Sinese become submerged in oxygenated water (like Ed Harriss) during the film's finale. And of course both films have a CGI tentacle. Cameron gives us water, De Palma gives us sand.

Everything De Palma touches has been covered before. He acknowledges this. But it's how he touches, that's magical. His entire film is elegant and fluid. Every shot is just a little bit wider or closer than usual. His camera pans and tracks with robotic precision, dancing, points of views shifting, perspectives changing. There's a perfection in his form. Every shot is beautifully precise.

But what about the trite story, critics say? Yes, the story is silly, stupid even, but it's all told with such an earnest "awww shucks" feeling that it sucks you in. And besides, De Palma is never about story. Compare "Femme Fatale" to "Double Indemnity". "Compare Vertigo" to "Body Double" or "Obsession". He takes the core ideas of all these films and multiplies them by ten. You want "Double Indemnity"? De Palma gives you triple indemnity. You want Hitchcockian voyeurs? Hell, De Plama's voyeurs are watching voyeurs who themselves are being watched by even more voyeurs. You want illicit Hitchcockian affairs? Screw that. De Palma gives you Vertigo with incest. You want a slow-mo Hitchcock knife stab? Hell, De Palma kills you with a power drill and chainsaw.

Nothing in De Palma's cinema is real. He knows that all films are about other films. Everything he's done has been done before. This is what all formalists (Coens, Tarantino, Leone) are about. They're interested in the act of watching and how we catalogue what we see.

After 4 viewings, the only flaw I see in "Mission to Mars" is the film's unimaginative ending. Someone concerned with style and superficial form really should design a more imaginative ending. De Palma's silly alien hologram feels hokey, though Morricone's score does lend it an emotional sweep.

But this fault, I think, can be blamed on Touchstone. The studios had an 80 million dollar budget on the line, and weren't happy with where the film was going. They wrongly thought they had another Appolo 13/Gary Sinese rescue movie on their hands. And so looking to save cash, they chopped the budget and gave De Palma several months less to shoot the final act. Hence the film goes nowhere after the EVA sequence. But this sort of studio meddling is typical with De Palma (Snake Eyes, Mission Impossible, Casualties, Dahlia, Obsession, Bonfire etc were all taken away at some point).

8.5/10- The film has aged well. Gorgeous visuals, beautiful music and an affecting sense of optimism. The only flaw is the last act, which still works thanks to Morricone's score and an emotional flashback montage. Requires several viewings.
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I really enjoyed mission to mars
laserwatch00719 March 2000
Mission to Mars isn't your average alien movie. When I first heard about it I thought, "Oh, another alien movie. People go to Mars, aliens on Mars, aliens kill people" and so on. But when I saw it, it made me think, "What if, that was true? We'd be Martians on Earth!" Mission to Mars is also setting itself up for a sequel. People will want to know what happened to Gary Sinese when he left in the pod? Did he fly through a star and sizzle himself, do aliens kill him, or whatever. I think Mission to Mars was the best alien movie I've ever seen. I give it a 10 out of 10.
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Overwhelming disappointment.
Spence-1029 September 2000
Even though I had already noted that the IMDB had rated it 4.8, I still was prepared to give Mission to Mars a viewing, based merely upon the special effects, and the fact that I am a sucker for Space Movies. What a terrible mistake. Mission to Mars is a 10th rate rip off of 2001, a Space Odyssey, except with terrible acting, no character development, and, just to add insult to injury, an insipid soundtrack.
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Mission to Misery: stay far away from this one!
davetrou22 September 2000
"Mission to Mars" was one of those movies that I had intended to see at the theatre, but missed it until it came out on video. Well, that was the best eight bucks I ever saved.

The banal dialogue, awful acting, bad special effects, and predictable storyline leads me to wonder who approved the budget for this film. Did they read the script first? Was there a script?

I may have saved eight bucks at the box office, but I wasted three at the video rental place. Save your money. Leave this one on the shelf.
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Wow. Just wow.
ktwebb6811 June 2008
I caught this a little into the movie. It was at the incredibly cheesy scene when Sinise is looking at video of he and his friends at a party.

It was laughable but it only got worse. So I watched for about 45 minutes before I just couldn't take it anymore. Not a single second of this movie was believable. From Dr. Pepper trick to the tether scene outside the spaceship. Sinise is a relatively talented actor and Robbins has his moments, well one anyway (Shawshank), they couldn't rescue this flick.

After the 45 minutes I was anxious to get here and see the reviews from the disappointed. And yes, they are here but I am truly shocked that people not only liked the movie but actually are praising it so highly. Thus my summary tag line. Amazing that viewers can be drawn in to a film of such low quality.

Watched it on a 65" TV with a high end surround sound and there are a couple of moments the movie utilizes the technology available to it but by and large the effects, by today's standards, are amateurish and very low caliber. This would have been visually stunning in 1976 but in 2000, and certainly now, it's somewhat of a joke.

But the effects aren't the only downfall. The dialog is equally pathetic. Acting marginal to awful. Direction atrocious. It fails at every level.

And there are people that like it. That is awesome and utterly amazing.
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Exploitation of Mars
ibn_fadlan27 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
the movie itself is visually stunning. The plot is so so, but on a personal note I like it a lot. It has drama and some base in science on an actual flight to Mars. SPOILER SPOILER The best part of the film is when GAry Sinese decides to continue on his personal expoloration of Mars's past people. I think its his small step for humankind's giant leap with all the pitfall and tribulations of any scientific journey, especially to such a remote place like Mars. For any Mars fan, this is a must while we wait for another quite like it.
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I can't believe the bad reviews !
rennarda1 October 2001
I don't understand why this film is getting such a hard time here ! OK, so it's no 2001 - a film with which is has much in common - but it's certainly no Battlefield Earth either.

The story is engaging - the action sequences are realistic and entertaining - the special effects are excellent, with very realistic spaceship designs and photography. The main criticism I can level at the film is that is totally avoids some important scenes, such as the first landing on Mars, or the landing of Mars 2 crew. Also the initial scene is drawn out and there's far too much hugging going on !

This is an intelligent, but low-key film - it reminded me of some mid-fifties sci-fi, like the Thing. Perhaps audiences today are less sophisticated - having been brought up on a diet of poor action movies and even poorer Star Trek 'science fiction'. Mission to Mars has a more realistic basis, is less flashy - and I don't think there's even one explosion in the whole film.

If you enjoyed Contact or 2001 and want more of the same, then Mission to Mars is a definite must-watch. It's a shame that a quality film like this is getting panned so badly, as movie studios are more likely to avoid similar projects in the future. Would 2001 be made today ? I doubt it.
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