Short Attention Span Review™
Certainly not a science fiction classic, Red Planet possesses many aspects that make it an enjoyable watch, but there's not a high level of rewatchability. Carrie-Anne Moss puts in the best performance as Commander Bowman. Some of the science is a bit of a stretch, but not nearly so when compared to most scifi cinema.
The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on November 11th, 2000.
Here are some updated thoughts: 2000 was the year of Mars with Mission to Mars and Red Planet, much like 1989 was the “under the water” year in the theaters with The Abyss, DeepStar Six, and Leviathan hitting the theaters. It seems studios have piles of scripts just sitting in archives that they instantly green-light when they hear that a rival studio is working on a certain genre film. Looking back, of the two Mars movies that came out in 2000, Red Planet is clearly the superior interpretation. Mission to Mars (which we have reviews of, to be posted later) gets a bit lost in its message (and giant heads on Cydonia) in the final act.
Even though we gave this move a decent review and score back in 2000, it’s not particularly memorable or re-watchable, nor is it anywhere near lists of science fiction classics. Unrelated to the story itself . . . I thought the spacesuit design and the flexible touchscreen film able to compute and display video were particularly prescient.
In the first section of my review I make note of death threats and bodily harm. This was due to one of our earlier reviews for Romeo Must Die, which was a horrible movie. Other’s seemed to disagree with out opinions. Ahhhh, the internet.
Wow, it’s been a LONG time since we fired up the old He Said She Said. Hey, it’s been nice to get a break from all those death threats and promises of bodily harm . . . but I’m sure this review will give readers renewed vigor in that endeavor. I’ve been waiting anxiously for Red Planet for quite some time now, since I AM a big science fiction nerd. And I guess I should just break it to you right now: I liked Red Planet. (ducks flying chair thrown at him) Does this surprise you? I liked mostly liked Mission to Mars and I am giving Red Planet the exact same grade, but for different reasons.
I think a lot of people are going to go into the movie expecting a huge action epic with Martians and exotically powered weapons of destruction. I assure you that none of this is present. Instead we are shown a plausible, yet fictionalized, account of what a mission to Mars might be like. Red Planet is one of those movies that hearkens back to the true definition of science fiction: fiction that is based on science or extrapolations of scientific theory . . . and that’s exactly the type of movie it is. Many may find it boring, many will find it unbelievable, but there are a few of us out here who enjoyed, for the most part, this slick and highly stylized interpretation of humanity’s first trek to Mars to investigate a terraforming effort gone awry.
I hate bugs, but I liked this movie! Although I haven’t read any other reviews of the film (I’ll take your word for it that they are mostly negative), I don’t really see what was not to like about Red Planet. My only complaint is that I wasn’t emotionally attached to any of the characters with the exception of Moss’ Bowman. They could have all died and I wouldn’t have shed a tear. I guess that’s why this film didn’t score higher for me. You also state that you think most people will find the movie boring, and I say that is true only if they display a complete lack of imagination!
I am not a science person at all, but I really enjoyed the fact that this story could potentially really happen in the future. It is science fiction that is based on science fact, and I find that extremely interesting. Yeah, I love good space operas like Star Wars and ST:TNG, but those shows fit more into the Sci-Fi Fantasy genre than real Sci-Fi. Red Planet gives us a look at what really could happen in the future. It subtly gives us the warning that we are killing our own green planet and that there isn’t anywhere else for us to go. The beauty of Red Planet is that it doesn’t beat us over the head with a “be good to the environment” message, but it does leave the audience with an awareness that if Earth is to survive, we need to wake up to the damage we are doing.
Going into it I thought that the robot (AMEE) was going to be the main driver of the story, but it wasn’t . . . thank you very much. Perhaps that’s what most of you are going to this movie for, to see a rabid robot hunt down and tear the astronauts to pieces for 90 minutes. Not gonna happen. The best performance was put in by Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix). At no point during the movie did I look at her and be reminded of Trinity or black leather. I recommend Red Planet only to those science fiction buffs who can appreciate the attempt of trying to make a plausible movie without resorting to scary aliens hunting you down in the dark, or green laser blasts. Those who can’t appreciate this . . . go watch Charlie’s Angels and enjoy your jiggle factor.
I particularly liked Dr. Bud Chantillas’ (Terence Stamp) attitude that “science can’t answer all of the really interesting questions!” It seems to me that people who don’t like this movie or films like Mission to Mars aren’t smart enough to even ponder the truly interesting questions of life. They are the type of people who can only find entertainment in action-packed films with little plot. I imagine that they are also the same people who read Cliffs Notes instead of the real book! If Red Planet had been nothing but AMEE gone wild or (I shudder) more creepy bugs, I probably would have been slightly entertained, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much. Oh, and for all the non-intellects out there, Carrie-Anne Moss has a nude shower scene in this movie!
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.
He Said, She Said was a movie blog (before blogs were a thing) where Amy and I would go to movies and write short and easily accessible compare & contrast reviews. Sometimes we agreed . . . and sometimes not. Above all we never took the movies, or ourselves, too seriously.