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By Ted Baldwin

Mission to Mars
Reviewed:
3/12/2000


This is straight out of the Fifties era of Man Into Space Movies - ooh-what-dangers-will-we-find-other-than-ourselves pablum.

They don't find much.
For a cool mars atlas, click here.For a cool mars atlas, click here.For a cool mars atlas, click here.
FIVE POSSIBLE
If the above picture is upsetting to you, remember, it is just a picture of Mars. If you feel like your brain is being drilled into, it is not true. If you stare at the two outer planets you should see a third one between them. If making you think is manipulating you, I apologize.
     There just is not much to this film. Sorry to say, they spent a lot on art and concept and absolutely nothing on the writing. It is accurate, scientifically, I guess, but in the end who cares?

     De Palma's film meanders around, getting us to Mars for a rescue mission, with a nary but a few micrometeorites in the way. And that is what it feels like. Sort of a Close Encounters on Mars, with an X-files alien, and the Origin of Life on Earth, (seen it on LPB and the opening of Dilbert, though I suppose it will be a revelation for those elitists that actually don't have TV sets), chosen one going "home" and other stuff. A few neat effects and an explanation for the state Mars is in. One or two audience pleasers and a good answering machine take by Jerry O'ConnellO'Connell. And lots of dirty red rocks.

     Sadly, just not much more.

     Oh, if I could have seen this as a kid thirty five years ago. It would have illuminated my world. I would have sat rapt with attention, instead of counting the things I have seen before. And dreamed of the day when I could do a more exciting film myself.

     Not to worry, I have one - several - in the works.

     And believe me, Mission to Mars does not waste any time grinding things to a maudlin halt. We all know they are going away for a long time, but does it have to take so long before they even leave?

     From the phony blast-off at the beginning, to the awkward round of good-byes at the going away party, to the cheesy pickup lines, and sad father-son very pointless conversation...it has no life, and no expectation of life. It is as dead as the planet they are heading for at 32 miles an hour.

     Aside from the special landscaping effects, every thing that could have made this film very interesting, even an unexpected pregnancy on board the mother ship, is left out. And the "human" drama that intersperses itself is not based on anything other than the deep respect and trust the astronauts all feel toward each other. Blecchh.

     Nice if the real world was that way, but it seldom is, so why put it in the film? It adds nothing except a teary round of "NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO's" when a husband dies. Sorry, but my sympathy circuits were just not activated for these characters. I did not grow with them, see them struggle, cheer them on through hardships because there were not any. And no other reasons to bond with them. Why just accept their goodness?

     They are a pretty boring lot.

     Sad when a subject as potentially interesting as the Face on mars gets such lite duty filmmaking...

     And that is why it is a spring movie and not a Christmas, Thanksgiving or Summer release. It is worth three planets though - it just could have been a contender!

     Make way for X-MEN, Dinosaur!, and others.
Things not in the movie that I wanted to see about midway through it...
  1. A Saboteur.
  2. Aliens in space.
  3. Conflict (say with the boss).
  4. Aliens on the planet (more than one, unfriendly).
  5. Walking dead.
  6. Alien robots.
  7. Landing of the second orbiter.
  8. Some kind of space rescue.
  9. Astronauts getting left behind.
  10. An underground city.
  11. A human resurrected.
  12. Alien DNA take over humans.
  13. Gary Sinise arrive somewhere.
  14. Tim Robbins burn up in the atmosphere.
  15. The rest of the main ship burn up in the atmosphere or trash the remaining vehicle (what are the odds on that, huh?)
  16. The script burn up in the atmosphere
  17. Wacky plants devour people.
  18. Taking us to the new planet.
  19. Some kind of alien fort or gizmo or ray gun.
  20. Alien corpses.
  21. Alien drugs to fix everybody.
  22. Alien library instead of just a planetarium, with a robot "silence" enforcer.
  23. The astronauts having to buy tickets to get into the Martian planetarium.
  24. More than one person on Earth deciding if the mission is a "go"
  25. Some way to describe the mission is a "go" without using that phrase.
  26. Absolutely no one ever chucking their fist and shouting "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" because they are so god damned happy to get their own way in this or any other movie, ever.
  27. Some kind of secrecy on Earth about the mission - a double cross or whatnot .
  28. DNA made out of Reese's Pieces instead of M&Ms- anything to break the monotony.
  29. Did I mention conflict? I mean real honest to God conflict? Or cowardice, or any human kind of emotion? MY GOD! I found the aliens - they are unfeeling unthinking inhuman robots disguised as astronauts!!!!!
  30. Backup computers that do not work either.
  31. Dirt on their nice clean white alien floor.
But those things are not in this movie. Nor any of another one million inventive things. They went for boring old realism, and plausible explanations, when I want adventure, romance and illogical, God-fearing excitement in my space movies.

     Author's note: As far as my personal experience with space travel is concerned, some people I know are absolutely convinced that I was abducted and replaced with a weird clone.
The movie tagline says "For centuries man has been searching for the origin of life on earth"
"we've been looking on the wrong planet!"
And in the wrong movie.
The official website is pretty sweet, with lots of pictures and good flash animations.
Amusing, isn't it?

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