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it's been hours since i returned from the much anticipated sci-fi opus `mission to mars' , and i can still detect the reek of moldy cheddar .
why ?
the movie is a shoddy cheesefest full of digital eye candy , stapled carelessly onto a flimsy screenplay which somehow manages to leapfrog the great promise of a space opera , instead shooting for the angle of a feel-good science fiction drama more akin to `2001 : a space odyssey' .
i got the feeling that most of my fellow movie-going patrons were expecting another `armageddon' .
but no , `mission to mars' certainly isn't one large action sequence about colossal disaster .
this is a supposedly thoughtful , family-friendly space flick in which the apocalyptic excitement takes a back seat to visual elegance and uplifting drivel .
you have been warned .
of course , crafting a tightly claustrophobic space drama is not impossible ( see `apollo 13' for an excellent example ) , but few directors possess the skill and craftsmanship to pull it off without seriously scarring their reputation .
brian de palma has enough directorial expertise and visual wizardry up his sleeve to pull it off .
when he gets his hands on an intelligent , systematically practical script like `the untouchables' or `mission : impossible' , the director has the ability to create a sound technical achievement ( although his overly indulgent style becomes bothersome more than occasionally ) .
of course , there's also the inexcusable string of crap that has carried his name ( including `snake eyes' and the notorious bomb `the bonfire of the vanities' ) . . . .
all of which makes me want to call de palma the most talented hack in hollywood .
that term may be too harsh , but if i were judging him solely on the perpetual waste of talent that is `mission to mars' , my choice of words would have been slightly less lenient .
if i were gary sinise , i wouldn't touch de palma with a 10-foot pole .
sinise is a wonderful , wonderful actor , but after appearing in `snake eyes' and this vomit-inducing sham , i'm sure he wouldn't want to risk the embarrassment of a third collaboration .
the academy award-winner plays nasa astronaut jim mcconnell , a man who recently lost his wife ( kim delaney ) and is apparently psychologically unfit for an upcoming space shuttle mission to mars ( oops , forgot to mention the year - 2020 ) .
after a barbecue get-together for the astronauts , we cut to luc goddard ( don cheadle ) and his team , who are already taking measurements and calculations on the red planet .
suddenly , a towering formation of rocks and soil - probably best dubbed a `sand tornado' - appears and creates a whirlwind of suction .
for some reason , the astronauts just stand there calmly to admire this , as if it were a lovely piece of art .
the team is killed within seconds , expect for luc , who was able to send one final transmission and may still be alive .
immediately , a second mission - consisting of astronauts mcconnell , husband and wife woody and terri blake ( tim robbins and connie nielsen ) and phil ohlmyer ( jerry o'connell ) - are dispatched to rescue luc and discover the mysterious secret of planet mars .
let's put the `secret' on hold for now , and discuss the trip there .
it is explained , whether scientifically accurate or not ( probably not ) , that a trip to mars takes roughly six months .
i'm not sure why the quartet of screenwriters behind `m2m' didn't capitalize on this juicy opportunity of creating tension and claustrophobia .
instead , we join the team during their final days aboard the ship .
what happened during the five months prior to this ?
did they just play cards and tell dirty jokes ?
still , there are few nicely tense moments ( maybe the only in the movie ) during the time-frame involving a fuel leak .
depalma's direction is quite good in these scenes , although the score by ennio morricone is largely inconsistent ( organ music in space ?
c'mon ) .
there's a few good , imaginative ideas in the landslide of cheese , a sad realization that causes me to sigh out loud .
it's a colossal bummer that `mission to mars' is poorly assembled and laughably written , with a dubious and supremely silly finale that will only satisfy dedicated optimists .
as mentioned before , anyone looking for some disaster-movie carnage is going to feel savagely disappointed . . .
maybe even cheated .
after the unbelievably hokey final shot ( with the words ? the end' somehow adding insult to injury ) , a few audience members made the effort to boo and hiss at the screen .
others muttered obscenities , shaking their heads in disbelief while mumbling `jeez , that sucked . '
okay , it did suck .
but you have to show the actors some sympathetic mercy . . .
after all , they do pretty well .
sinise is sincere and effective in many of his scenes , robbins and nielsen wholeheartedly convince as a loving nasa couple , and funnyman o'connell - well , he has a couple lines are actually amusing ( and intentionally so ) .
the digital effects accompanying the sand tornado sequence are quite impressive .
so , by golly , where did this `mission' go wrong ?
looking back on the appalling experience , i would say in practically every conduit and crevasse it could have .
while watching `mission to mars' , my suggestion would be to immediately abort , or better yet , don't even strap yourself in for lift-off .