In the year 2000 Hollywood went to Mars
It’s not hard to tell after watching which film was directed by a TV commercial director with no experience making a movie and Brian De Palma There’s no question which has a better plot, themes or visuals. It’s bad that Red Planet is full of decent actors who were completely wasted in what could be confused for big budget The Asylum mockbuster. Mission to Mars is a long drama that is about the first mission to Mars finding a greater truth about we are and where we come from. it’s about sacrifice and faith. The crew is tight-knit and a family. Two are husband and wife and it makes for a story where you care about the characters and what motivates them. Gary Sinise instead of losing his legs loses his wife and is no longer part of the mission crew. Lily Gray and Andy Dufresne’s relationship is great which makes the death between them matter and carry weight. Red Planet is a jumbled mess of ego maniacs with a shoehorned in female captain who’s somehow former Navy and not Air Force. Not ten minutes in we get a shower scene because reasons. The preceding conversation with Trinity and Rey Curtis begins with her wiping steam off a mirror in a bathroom and him putting clothes on. It could be from a work out but then where did the steam come from? She then on day 144 of their mission didn’t lock the door just so we could get a scene of Val Kilmer’s character Gallagher, yes Gallagher, walk in on her as she steps out. Their romance if one can all it that is so disjointed that it’s told in flashbacks instead of during the normal progression of the story to explain why she cares about the systems engineer AKA glorified janitor (there words not mine) Mission had great sets a few interesting space walk moments and motivations not just to care about what happens to the characters but what the mystery was behind the “face” that was found. There wasn’t a villain to defeat but mysteries to solve. What happened to the origins ground crew, what was the sound coming from the face? How did a black man get to not only get sent but survive when so many died? Red Planet’s plot is the Earth is polluted and overcrowded so we are looking for a new home and look to Mars. Bio Engineered algae is sent for 20 years to produce oxygen. O2 levels begin to drop and a team gets sent to find out why. There are throwaway lines about how we are going to trash the new planet (true) and some bs about having faith and philosophy. This comes from Zod who is chief science officer and “soul of the crew” (again their words) This had no pay off as the resolution to the decreases in oxygen levels. He and or his beliefs would have been better suited in Mission to Mars. Now for the major conflict(s). In Mission to Mars, the first crew members are attacked by a mysterious event and a rescue/recovery mission is sent. They run into their own issues and after finding the lone survivor, the set to solve the mystery before the leave. In Red Planet they have a small window to figure out what happened to the algae, and get back to the ship before Trinity has to leave them due to low fuel. Oh and their mapping exploration robot on loan from the Marines gets damaged during their crash and reverts to survival military mode when the crew mentions they want to pull her parts for a battery and radio. In Mission to Mars the finale is finding out the answer of why Earth had an explosion of life all of sudden and where we come from. In Red Planet the finale is val Kilmer having to outsmart a killer robot for it’s battery. I need to point out that I find it insulting that the character played bu Carrie Anne Moss (Trinity) is named Bowman and spends a bit of the movie alone talking to her ship’s AI computer much like David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. De Palma’s film seems to try to strike a balance between normal sci-fi and reaching for something more. I would have prefered to have more exposition about the nature of man and our yearning to explore. It covered well enough but didn’t blow me away. It’s the stronger of the two films by light-years. Mission to Mars takes us to another galaxy while Red Planet blows up on the launch pad.