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Red Planet

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Red Planet

Starring: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore
Director: Antony Hoffman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thriller

*Also starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Is there life on Mars? Even after the inert actors in Antony Hoffman's RED PLANET make their journey there, the count of life forms still appears to be about zip. With an arid landscape that is the spitting image of Utah, the tedious movie is about as much fun as a long stroll through a hot Utah desert without benefit of water.

The near-comatose cast is led by Carrie-Anne Moss (THE MATRIX) as Commander Kate Bowman. In one of the blandest narrations on record, she explains the setup to us. It seems that Earth's resources have been depleted by bad ecological choices, so the planet's inhabitants have decided to colonize Mars. In order to prepare our promised land, we have blanketed Mars with algae. This has been working for twenty years, but suddenly the algae have started to disappear. Commander Bowman is leading the first manned mission to Mars in order to find out what happened to the algae. Yes, RED PLANET is about lost algae. If you think that AWOL algae doesn't sound like a hot recipe for a picture, you'd be right.

Along on the expedition with the commander are Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer), Dr. Quinn Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt), Chip Pettengill (Simon Baker) and Dr. Bud Chantillas (Terence Stamp). In a dead-end subplot, Dr. Chantillas is a scientist turned philosopher who spends his time looking for God. Exactly why he was chosen to join them is a mystery not worth solving.

The good news about the cast is that Val Kilmer avoids his usual proclivity for overacting with a vengeance. The bad news is that he phones in his part without one scintilla of emotion. Actually, the whole cast seems affected by the lighter Martian gravity which appears to make time slow down and brains go into idle loops.

In order to jazz up this PG-13-rated science fiction tale, writers Jonathan Lemkin and Channing Gibson have the commander parade naked and wear tight see-through tops. Moss demonstrates as much sexuality in her nude scenes as she does fear when disaster strikes, which is to say, none at all. After standing nude in front of Gallagher and telling him to think of her as his sister, she orders him to get busy. "Why don't you go fix something?" she requests. "Yes, sir, uh, ma'am!" he shoots back.

About the only satisfactory moment in RED PLANET comes when the commander's computer decides to get sarcastic with her. "That's not good," the commander remarks when something unexpected happens. "No, it isn't," the computer replies wittily.

Usually, one wants to see science fiction movies on the big screen in order to appreciate the impressive images. In RED PLANET, Peter Suschitzky's dark and dull cinematography gives you little reason not to wait for video. And if you do wait, you would be better off renting MISSION TO MARS, which is a superior movie. "You want me to shut up and let you die quietly?" Burchenal asks Gallagher at one point. You'll be hoping, against hope, that he says "yes," so that this miserable mission can draw to a quick close.

RED PLANET runs 1:47. It is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief nudity and language and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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