Ghosts of Mars: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The landscape of Mars has been colonized by mankind, but that doesn’t mean all of its secrets have been discovered. A team of police agents has been dispatched to a remote mining colony there, where a dangerous criminal is be picked up, then transported back to face his charges. One of the team members is Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) and while she doesn’t know it now, she will be the sole team member to return from the mission. After some time has passed and the team starts their mission, their train arrives back at the station, but not all of them have made the trek back to the main populace. As the search crew examines the ghost train, they discover Ballard is the sole occupant and she has been handcuffed in place. What happened to Ballard and more to the point, what happened to the other members of her crew?

After a dismal run in the theaters and a scathing tour of the critical press, Ghosts of Mars has landed on home video, where it should find an audience. Of course, fans of John Carpenter will check it out, but I think anyone who enjoys action driven sci/fi and doesn’t need a complex, thought provoking premise should look into this picture. Yes, it is plot holes and never asks much of the viewers, but then again, this kind of movie shouldn’t, I don’t think. It is clear this flick was made to dazzle the eyes and provide a nice, fast ride and if you ask me, it succeeds on those fronts and that’s what counts. The pace is brisk, the characters are fun to watch, there’s tons of brutal violence & blood to be seen, plus it has Natasha Henstridge. I know she’s not the best actress out there, but I love to see her in action and as such, her presence enhances the experience for me and I’m sure, many others out there. In the end, this was a very fun movie to watch, but the violence and plot holes could turn some folks off, I think. But if you’re into brutal, action driven sci/fi with some awesome visuals, then give Ghosts of Mars a chance.

Although his career has taken a downturn over time, I still have faith in director John Carpenter, if just because he makes fun movies. I admit some of his recent works have been pretty bad, but he is reliable in some respects and he doesn’t shy away from graphic violence, which a lot of directors seem to do in the current social climate. So even if just because he uses sex and violence in nice doses, I continue to frequent Carpenter’s films as he completes them. I had low hopes for Ghosts of Mars, but as per usual, he delivers the violence and throws in some hot women, as well as a decent enough storyline. This is no thinking man’s movie by any means, but it is rough and pulls no punches, which is cool, I think. I wouldn’t call this a return to form for Carpenter, but it is a step up from some of his other recent efforts. Other films by Carpenter include Halloween, Vampires, Escape From New York, and They Live. The cast includes Natasha Henstridge (Species, Species II), Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, Friday Foster), Ice Cube (Next Friday, The Player’s Club), and Clea DuVall (The Faculty, But I’m A Cheerleader).

Video: How does it look?

Ghosts of Mars is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition also included on this dual layered disc. As this is a visually complex picture, I had some doubts about this transfer, but those worries were unfounded, as the image provided here looks terrific in all respects. I did see some grain, but it is light and never an issue, while the source print is in fantastic condition, as expected from such a new release. The red hues dominate the scope here, but all the colors look in top form and I saw no bleeds or such, even when the reds hit maximum richness in some scenes. The contrast is also very important here and true to form, the black levels are stark and well balanced, so shadows and detail levels are dead on throughout. Not a flawless visual effort, but a damn good one and fans should me most pleased indeed.

Audio: How does it sound?

Just one choice in terms of audio, but it is a good one and as such, I doubt anyone will complain too much. The track is a rockin’ Dolby Digital 5.1 option and just as you’d expect from this kind of movie, it puts all those speakers to good use. I was very pleased with the surround presence, both in action driven sequences and the more reserved moments, as all the scenes have a nice atmosphere, with plenty of subtle touches. The power is there too however, so your system will get a solid workout in that respect also, including some excellent, deep bass that kicks in on more than a few instances. All this never hampers dialogue however, as vocals remain easy to understand and that’s important here. This disc also includes English and French subtitle options, in case you might need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As per usual, director John Carpenter supplies a good audio commentary session and this time around, he is joined by the gorgeous Natasha Henstridge. The two seem relaxed and quite candid in this track, so we’re let in on a lot of behind the scenes tomfoolery and antics, in addition to the more technical comments. I’ve always enjoyed Carpenter’s sessions and with Henstridge also present, this track turns out to be another terrific one, so don’t miss it. You’ll also find three featurettes, each of which is a montage of various behind the scenes clips, organized into themed sections and sadly, not given any text or narration to enhance them. One runs a series of special effects based clips, another focuses on some of the fight scenes, and the final featurette is about the music of Ghosts of Mars, but isn’t as informative as I had expected. This disc also includes some talent files, but no theatrical trailer, which is a let down.

Disc Scores