Red Planet

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Movies seem to come in waves, meaning that movies of similar content come in waves. We’ve had movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line and various others (I can’t recall any right now, but there are some). Red Planet is one of those movies that closely resembles another movie about Mars; aptly titled “Mission to Mars”. While the two do share the same planet in common, that’s about all they share. Mission to Mars is more about getting to the planet and what happens once they do get there (the team starts getting picked off and they encounter life on Mars). Ok…so maybe these are alike after all. With Red Planet, we learn all we need to in the opening credits. Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss) tells us that in the future we have overpopulated the Earth and have pretty much tossed the Earth over our shoulders like that of an empty beer can. The next logical step is for us to move to another planet (yeah, right), so for the past twenty years we have been sending algae up to Mars where it has started to grow (where algae can grow and produce Oxygen, we can live). A ragtag team of scientists is sent to Mars to investigate and be the first human life on Mars to see if it will be an acceptable planet for the human race to settle down…again.

The characters are pretty stereotypical, there’s the leader of the mission, Kate. The movie makes the assumption that even fifty years from now we will have accepted the fact that women can be in a command position, so that’s really not an issue they try and tackle. Don’t get me wrong on that last sentence, by the way. We have a militant Lieutenant, Ted Santedn (Benjamin Bratt) who is as by the book as they come. Referred to as a “janitor”, the main star of the movie, other than the special effects, is Gallagher (Val Kilmer). Terrence Stamp plays a minor part as a scientist who has given up on science and started to search for the true meaning of life by turning his thoughts and studies to Theology (the study of God), and is more of the spiritual backbone of the crew. Tom Sizemore, always a good choice, is yet another PhD along for the ride. Now all of this is fine and good, but what happens? The mission would have been simple, or as simple as going to Mars can be, but a freak solar flare wipes out the navigation as they are beginning their approach to Mars. The captain must go down with the ship, so Bowman stays aboard while the rest of the crew uses the escape pod and reaches the surface of Mars. The discover that there is no algae present, but after a prolonged scene, they discover that the air is mysteriously breatheable. Odd. Their mission has turned from one of exploration into one of survival, as they must reach the base camp and try to figure out some way of getting back up into space and hopefully back home.

You would think that Mars the planet would be the antagonist, but to top it all off, a sort of futuristic “rover” by the acronym of AMEE has malfunctioned and is in a permanent “Military Mode” meaning that it will literally stalk and kill anything that manages to get in it’s way. Guess what’s in it’s way? While Mission to Mars ended up all philosophical on us, Red Planet seems to be one that concentrated on the action. Make that tried to concentrate on the action. For as good as the special effects are, there just wasn’t enough in it to make me really feel for the characters. Oh sure, all science-fiction movies are nice, and with the technology rapidly changing, these sci-fi movies are becoming more and more realistic; but Red Planet may or may not have the pulse of the movie-going public. Judging from it’s box office, it didn’t. While I found Red Planet entertaining, and certainly it’s worth watching to show off your home theater system, I just had to stop and think. Personally, I enjoyed Mission to Mars better, mainly for the score, but either one you pick should give you something to do for a few hours.

Video: How does it look?

One thing that can be said for these “new era” science-fiction movies is that the way they look is unbelievable. As you can imagine, a majority of the movie takes place on the surface of Mars and as barren as it’s depicted to be, the brown hues look very good. The 2.35:1anamorphic image manages to get a good scope of the picture and all of it’s glory. My only complaint is that some scenes tended to look a bit “soft” concerning the edge enhancement. Maybe it was the contrast of the scenes together that threw my take on it off, but nevertheless it’s a great looking transfer. The black levels are right on target (as the first part of the movie takes place in space) and flesh tones are almost non-existent as the muddy atmosphere of Mars gives everything the appearance of a penny. Still, this is one fine looking DVD and you should really enjoy watching it.

Audio: How does it sound?

Another thing that can be said for science fiction movies is that more times that not, they have excellent soundtracks. Red Planet has a very active mix that utilizes the rear speakers so much that it almost has a “dizzying” effect. That’s good. While the sub effects don’t take over the movie as much as I thought, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (in English and French) is one that all DVD’s should aspire to sound like. Dialogue is clear and clean except when they don’t want it to be, so that’s a fault of the movie as opposed to the sound mix. Overall, it’s another fine-sounding track from Warner, who continues their excellent commitment to DVD.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Some deleted scenes are about the only extra feature to be found on this disc. Though I see why they were deleted, I would have probably left them in. They offer little insight to the characters, still it’s nice to see some bonus material, though Mission to Mars had a lot more of a selection. Also included is the trailer in anamorphic widescreen and some cast and crew bios. Not bad…

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