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movies can do the two big es very well : educate and entertain .
in the best of all possible worlds , they accomplish both .
on the red planet , they fail entirely .
in the near future , a manned mission is sent to mars to observe primitive plant growth .
this film does a remarkable job of demonstrating exactly how exciting watching algae grow would be .
after some mumbo-jumbo about an ecological disaster on earth and an interminable wait to reach the fourth planet , the ship falls apart almost as fast as the movie does .
the ground crew of people you couldn't care less about is trapped on the surface without food , water or air and stalked by a deadly rogue cyberdog .
the one potentially interesting character ( carrie-anne moss ) spends her time alone in the orbiting ship talking to a computer .
attempting to graft " 2001 " esque space mysticism with " terminator " robot horror , first time director antony hoffman can't seem to figure out what's going on .
neither can we .
didn't he have anyone who could step back from the shooting and make sure there was a coherent story ?
couldn't he have used the money saved by only having to pay half a dozen actors to hire a scriptwriter ?
there are so many mis-steps .
every opportunity to create dynamic tension is thwarted by plot holes and lackluster direction .
why introduce the theme of faith vs . science if the crewman who could comment on it disappears early only to die _offscreen_ ?
the audience begins the film waiting for something to happen .
two hours later , they're still waiting .
despite our greatest hopes , there is no life on the red planet .