Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mission to Mars (2000)

It is actually pretty admirable and gutsy of Brian De Palma to tackle some of cinema's beacons of genius. He tackled Hitchcock (Dressed to Kill (1980)), Antonioni (Blow out (1981)), and, with this abysmal effort, Kubrick.

Mission to Mars is doomed from the get-go when we are introduced to the crew early on in a BBQ party eerily reminiscent of the ones we are used to in the 20th century. We are about 25 years in the future and on the eve of the first manned mission to Mars. Through dialogue that caused dents in my head, we are clobbered with information about each and every character that will play a role here: Gary Sinise, the real deserving astronaut for this trip, has to stay at home because of his depression after his wife's death; Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen as the couple who can't keep their hands off of each other; and finally Don Cheadle's genius family man.

Fast forward a year and Don Cheadle's team of international scientists/astronauts are gobbled up by a serpentine phenomenon that reveals a giant face on the surface of Mars. Meanwhile the other remaining cast are on a space station and they take it on themselves to save their friend.

There are some nifty camerawork here, but the funny thing is that Kubrick used the almost exact shots and sets for 2001: A Space Odyssey more than thirty years before De Palma. Imitation as flattery works only occasionally.

The dialogue never recovers from the initial salvo and the plot meanders its way through everything that can go wrong. To add insult to the injury, we are then forced to sit through a coda that is beyond ludicrous at the finale. Contact (1997) - a film that De Palma also borrowed a considerable chunk of his ideas from - handled that spiritual ending so much more graciously.

Mission to Mars is one of those rare films where not even Tim Robbins can save from being a serious contender for the worst film of the year. Or of the decade. Or ever.

1 comment:

Blarneyman said...

I saw this in the cinema, after seeing Red Planet a few months earlier. Both were bloody awful. Boring, boring, boring.

Good to see you're still alive and reviewing my flicks.

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