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there should be a requirement that a potential viewer be under a certain film iq in order to see " mission to mars . "
there are probably quite a few people who are going to enjoy it , and most of them will probably be those who have seen very few films of its kind .
but there are those who will not , and those will most likely be people who have already seen one or more of the following movies : " 2001 : a space odyssey , " " armageddon , " " apollo 13 , " " the abyss , " " close encounters of the third kind , " " e . t .
the extra-terrestrial , " " alien , " and " aliens . "
why ?
because there is not one original idea in " mission to mars . "
all of it is cribbed from other films ( and in most cases , better films ) .
if this is the sort of thing you don't mind , you might like the film .
of course , there are other reasons not to like " mission to mars , " the main one being a script written by people who seem to assume their audience is filled with people who haven't used their brains in some time , and who don't intend to start during the film's running time .
" mission to mars " manages to be both stupid and boring at the same time .
the plot , cribbed greatly from " 2001 , " concerns a team sent to mars , the first manned trip ever made to the red planet .
luke graham ( don cheadle ) leads the team , jointly formed of americans and russians .
the team encounters a mysterious monolith that emits a strange pulse ( this being nothing like the pulse-emitting monolith in " 2001 " -- that one was on the * moon * ) , but when they try to study it , a giant sand tornado comes out of the top and swallows them ( all except luke , who survives long enough to send a garbled message back to the rotating space station , which looks strangely like the rotating space station in " 2001 " ) .
a rescue mission is planned with husband & wife team woody blake ( tim robbins ) and terri fisher ( connie nielsen ) , obligatory pilot with a troubled past jim mcconnell ( gary sinise ) , and extra crew member phil ohlmyer ( jerry o'connell ) along for the ride .
after some zero-gravity dancing , they run into problems when one of their engines is blown , forcing them to attempt a desperate landing aboard a supply vessel .
now stranded on mars with minimal supplies , the team must decide whether or not it can risk entering the monolith or if they should return home .
after all , that monolith just might contain information about how life originated on earth .
" mission to mars " is one of those films that makes a critic wonder where to start when talking about all the things that are wrong with it , so let's start with one of the things that does work : director brian de palma manages to create some eerie tension in a few scenes during the middle of the film .
that's it .
everything else fails .
the failure isn't de palma's fault ; he's working from an atrocious script .
only during the sequence aboard the ship ( looking an awful lot like the jupiter vessel in " 2001 " ) where the rescue team's air begins running out and they must frantically search for the hole and patch it up does " mission to mars " come to life .
a scene where they attempt to save a comrade floating away into space also provides some tension , until you realize that the entire danger/more danger/attempted rescue sequence has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film ; it's just a contrived way to generate thrilling scenes .
take it out , and the plot isn't affected in any way .
the sequence also suffers from a few plot holes ( as does the rest of the film ) : why is the ship's computer ( which sounds strangely like hal from , uh , " 2001 " ) able to detect a hole in the main chamber but not one in the engine ?
why did tim robbins' character have to go outside the ship when the solution easily presented itself from inside ?
shouldn't the astronauts be better trained to deal with a hull breach ?
why are the characters such idiots ?
because the script makes little attempt to properly develop them .
all the " conflict " is clumsily delivered in excruciatingly obvious exposition in the opening scene ( which rips off orson welles and robert altman by utilizing a long opening tracking shot ) during which the characters repeatedly tell each other about things all of them should already know : " jim , it's too bad you can't go on this mission because you were determined 'psychologically inadequate' because your wife died right before you were to go on the mission together " -- does anyone really talk like this ?
can't we find out these things in a less grating matter , like maybe in a flashback ?
the whole film is like that .
the filmmakers are not content to merely show us something and assume we know what's going on ; they must * tell * us exactly what we're looking at * every * time .
sample dialogue from the film : ( shot of mars ) astronaut a : " look , there's mars " astronaut b : " you sure that's mars ? "
astronaut a : " yeah , that's mars all right . "
astronaut c : " hey , are you guys looking at mars ? "
that exchange isn't actually in " mission to mars , " but i wouldn't be surprised if it were .
for all their cribbing from kubrick , spielberg , james cameron , and even ron howard , the makers of this film haven't learned to do something all those directors did very well : show and don't tell .
de palma used to know how , but seems to have forgotten .
this is mentally-challenged filmmaking ; they assume the audience won't get what's going on , so they explain everything five times over .
fourth-graders may appreciate this , but more learned viewers will have their intelligence insulted .
the principal actors sleepwalk their way through " mission to mars , " never managing to do away with an apparent " i'm just here to get a paycheck " attitude .
cheadle stumbles over his awkward lines .
armin mueller-stahl manages to thoroughly embarrass himself in an unbilled cameo .
robbins puts his game face on and phones in his standard " decent guy " performance .
and sinise hams it up with " wistful " facial expressions while watching tapes of his dead wife ( played by kim delaney , who only has one scene during which she still manages to deliver some ridiculous dialogue in a heavy-handed monologue about the meaning of life ) , and especially during the stolen-from-no-less-than-three-movies ( a lollipop to whoever names them ) conclusion , which combines endless , obvious explanation and sub-par cgi effects with gagging sentimentality and is sure to alienate any viewers who had been enjoying the show up until then .
and of course , these aliens from mars who facilitated the evolution of life on earth are entirely different from the aliens in " 2001 " who facilitated the evolution of life on earth ; those aliens were from an * unknown * world .
it could be said that fans of brainless action films might enjoy " mission to mars , " but such a comment ignores the fact that the film is also incredibly slow-going .
leisurely pacing might have helped a film with a little more substance to it , but all of the substance of " mission to mars " has been stolen from other films , and those other films dealt with their ideas in a much more thoughtful fashion and generally contained more engaging characters .
supposedly we're intended to choke up when one character decides not to return home at the end of this one ( totally different from the one-character-decides-not-to-return ending of " armageddon " ) , but i suspect most people will either be laughing or groaning .
me , i alternated between the two .
there is only one good thing about the way " mission to mars " finally ends : the fact that the movie is over .