Red Planet (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Oh, Jiminy. My dream come true. A whole movie narrated. With an evil robot, Martian dung-beetles, breathable Martian air, and a Mars with exactly the same surface gravity as earth, as evidenced by their walking! I mentioned only yesterday that "Whipped" with 18/100 was the lowest score I have ever seen from ApolloGuide users - this one scored 16/100! Critics scored it approximately equal to Battlefield Earth (8% positive reviews overall for Red Planet, 5% for Battlefield. From the elite group they tied at 6%). Not only that, it cost more than Battlefield Earth, and had a lower box office gross. How bad is that?

But best of all, if there's one thing I like better than vampire movies with a voice-over narration it's Mars movies with a voice-over. The handy narration saves us from having to endure any further pointless dialogue and flashbacks.

It starts something like this:

"I'm Carrie-Anne Moss, captain of the mission. My crew includes: the cliched reckless fly-boy (show him in frame), the cliched science officer disenchanted with science (cut to him - you get the idea), the evil guy I didn't want on the mission, the guy sexy enough for me to make out with, the all-powerful robot with no off switch which is capable of turning evil ..."

Now, they obviously couldn't have her narrate the entire movie, could they? Oh, yes, they could. Here's how. The crew ends up on Mars while she is trapped in the orbiter. Therefore, she has to communicate back to Houston and tell them exactly what is going on. She is 40 minutes away by transmission time, so they can't respond immediately, so in order to communicate to Houston, she ends up describing the action from the surface and her orbiter into the communication device, and there's no response, and ........... hey, wait a minute - that's a voice-over! In keeping "Mission Control" apprised, she narrates the entire froggin' film!


Carrie-Anne Moss does a brief, basically unrevealing shower scene (very quick look at her breasts), and hangs out in some t-shirts.
Good thing, too, because if she hadn't told us that Terence Stamp was the science officer, we could never have guessed. We would have thought he was the chaplain. This guy spoke in more parables than Jesus and Buddha put together. For a while there I was looking around for David Carradine to see if the little grasshopper had absorbed the lessons yet. This could be somewhat of a liability in a science officer.

Theoretical example:

"Commander, how many people can return to earth if we lose 43% of our power in 30 seconds?"

"Consider the man who comes first to a wedding, and knows not the way of peace. Is he not as the baby robin ......"

(Thirty seconds pass. They all die. All but one of them could have lived if he answered fast enough for the captain to make a decision.)

That science officer who was disenchanted with science certainly had good reason to be disenchanted with the science in this movie. In addition to the inexplicable matters mentioned above, and a geneticist who doesn't know the DNA alphabet (there are only four letters to memorize, A-G-T-C, but he gets one of them wrong) there are a few engineering problems. Here are some examples:

  • They encounter solar flares. Obviously either the scientists didn't expect this or the engineers didn't do anything about it, because it pretty much disables them completely.
  • They land on the Martian surface. The engineers seemed to have two problems here (1) the craft is not capable of making a good landing (2) the craft is not capable of surviving the landing it is capable of making

They encounter an old Russian Martian Lander, and NASA tells them that the guy who designed it is now running a deli in Brooklyn. I imagine many of the other engineers on this project were also shuttled to less taxing positions. Some of them were re-assigned from NASA in Florida to the project of designing the Florida voting procedure. And I believe some of them were the guys who designed the Corvair.

The 182 day flight to Mars was kind of cool. They have a really roomy spaceship with plenty of couches and poker tables and W.C. Fields posters, with a jogging track, and booze from a a homemade still, and a shower, and they all hung around and had some cute conversations, like an episode of Will and Grace in space.

Then they had the solar flare thing, and they weren't so charming any more.

Here is some sample dialogue:

  • Terence Stamp to the other guys when he is too weak to keep walking "this is no time for misguided heroics". It would have been cool if someone had said, "when is a good time for misguided heroics?"
  • Carrie-Anne Moss to Kilmer, "if you can't do it for them (the people of earth) or yourself, do it for me"
  • Reckless fly-boy to other crew member, "I don't need forgiveness from a pussy like you". (I did laugh at that one, but I don't think it was meant as a comic moment)

This film was actually nominated for an award. I didn't make this up. The rest of this paragraph is straight fact according to the Gospel of IMDb: It was nominated for Best Song by the Las Vegas Film Critics Society for Peter Gabriel's "The Tower That Ate People". I only wish Sinatra were still alive to sing it for us in the main room at the Sands.

I wonder how many film critics they have in Las Vegas.

It is also now a contender for my prestigious Scoopy Award of "Biggest waste of human time and effort in any human project not involving Kevin Costner", nominated alongside The Thirteenth Warrior, Battlefield Earth, and the Crimean War.

The movie actually looks quite good except for the Martian surface. "Mars" looks like they just set up the cameras somewhere in the Middle East and pushed the camels out of the shot, then photographed through a gold filtered lens, which actually makes Mars the Brown Planet. But the space and onboard shots look rich. Might be enjoyable to watch with the sound turned off and a doob fired up.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed, 2.35,

  • 15 minutes of very tedious deleted scenes

Actually, though, it might be better if the movie looked like shite. If it was made for a million, and looked like cowflop, it probably would have turned a profit, and couldn't have lost much. In real life, they spent $75 million to make this movie. It took in $17 million domestic gross.

Personally, I'd say it's pretty much a perfect space movie except Dr Smith wasn't on the crew to do any evil plotting.

Danger, Will Robinson.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 56. It so happens that Ebert was the only major critic who liked it. Berardinelli did pick it as his #1 Mars movie of 2000 (out of two).

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 8% positive overall, 6% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5, Apollo users a pathetic 16/100. .
  • With their dollars ... it lost a ton. Did only $17 million on 2700 screens. Production budget $75 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Only people who must see every sci-fi film will want to see this one.

Return to the Movie House home page