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after a marketing windup of striking visuals and the promise of star caliber actors , mission to mars ends up throwing a whiffleball .
fiercely unoriginal , director depalma cobbles together a film by borrowing heavily from what has gone before him .
there are aliens similar to those in close encounters of the third kind .
the stranded astronaut theme is reminiscent of robinson crusoe on mars .
the astronauts encounter space flight difficulties that smack of apollo 13 .
interior spacecraft visuals are redolent of 2001 : a space odyssey .
instead of using these components as a launching pad to create his own movie , de palma stops right there , refusing to infuse the film with anything even remotely resembling cleverness or heart .
mission to mars takes it's first wobbly steps at a pre-launch barbeque in which the perfunctory character introductions are done .
during these surface scans of the characters , we learn that jim mcconnell ( sinise ) has lost his wife .
it's a plot point revisted throughout the film with jackhammer subtlety .
the rest of the crew exhibit a bland affability .
there is no contentiousness , no friction to add the the dramatic tension of these men and women being confined to close quarters for an extended length of time .
maybe depalma was going for the comraderie of the right stuff , but in that movie , the astronauts had embers of personality to warm us through the technical aspects .
it's the year 2020 and this is nasa's first manned excursion to the red planet .
a crew , led by luke graham ( cheadle ) , arrives on mars and quickly discovers an anomaly , which they investigate with tragic results .
graham is able to transmit a garbled distress call back to earth .
in response , earth sends a rescue team comprised of mcconnell , woody blake ( robbins ) , wife terri fisher ( nielsen ) and phil ohlmyer ( o'connell ) .
obstacles are put in the crew's way and and they matter-of- factly go about solving them .
i should say , mcconnell goes about solving them .
time and again , mcconnell is presented as some kind of wunderkind , which wouldn't be so bad if the rest of the crew didn't come across as so aggressivelly unremarkable .
( mention should be made of the misogynistic handling of fisher in a situation where the entire crew's mission and life is in mortal danger .
on a team of professionals , she is portrayed as an emotion directed weak link .
women serve no purpose in the movie other than to serve as a reflection of a male character's personality trait . )
by the time they land on mars and try to solve the mystery of what occurred , mission to mars starts laying on the cliches and stilted dialogue with a heavy brush .
there is an adage in film to " show , don't tell . "
mission to mars does both .
repeatedly .
characters obsessively explain the obvious , explain their actions as they are doing them , explain to fellow astronauts facts which should be fundamental knowledge to them .
the film's conclusion is momumentally derivative , anti-climatic and unsatisying .
as i walked out i wondered who the target audience might be for this film .
the best i could come up with is pre-teen age boys , but in this media saturated era , this film's components would have been old hat even for them .
i have to think what attracted such talent to this film was the lure of making a good , modern day b-movie .
the key to such a venture is a certain depth and sincerity towards the material .
i felt no such earnestness .