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Mission to Mars
Review by Ross Anthony

What just happened on screen? Here's the best I can make of it: a rather B-script with some G-force actors.

In a ten-minute, backyard-BBQ, introductory scene (here on Earth), we meet the astronauts and their families via some gratuitous, expository relationship background and goodbyes. The next thing we know, these folks are on the red planet. "Mission to Mars" is not about getting there. It's about salvaging the mission of the crew that meets with a rather unexpected, unexplainable catastrophe while hanging out collecting rocks one day.

Basically, an upside-down tornado slowly builds up force just meters in front of the four earthlings. Yet, they stand calmly as the martian stones between their feet are pulled forward then thrust a kilometer into the atmosphere. What were they thinking? Turn and run to the ship, you silly mammals!

From there, the rest of the film is a rescue mission launched off of the World Space Station as it floats around the solar system.

The humans in their little white suits seem projected onto this man-made Mars backdrop, space, or spacecraft -- kind of like Dorothy's gang in OZ. The special effects are garden-variety: most fine to midland, some cheesy, some impressive. A centrifugal gravity chamber of the rescue craft is very nicely simulated. The suits are convincing, but space movies love to put lights inside the astronauts' helmets. It's dark in space, do they really think space-pioneers would appreciate penlights three inches from their cheekbones shining into their eyeballs? Nope, but it sure looks good on film. Lastly, fossil fuels in deep space in the year 2020? Doubtful.

Tim Robbins' presence is the only perfect thing about the film. Gary Sinise's performance is also solid.

The producer quips, "If we've done our jobs right we'll be one big advertisement for continuation of human space explorations." Hopefully that's true, but concerning claims of advertisement, "Mission to Mars" shows no shame in selling "space" to cola and candy products.

Though a few well-delivered one-liners tickled this audience, there were equally as many embarrassingly unintentional gut-busters. Adequately compelling, you may find the hokey "Mission to Mars" slightly insulting to your adult intellect. However, the patient 10-year-old might just worship this movie (if any exist).

FYI: Mars is visible to the naked eye in the night sky and it really is red.

  • Mission to Mars. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG.
  • Starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, Peter Outerbridge, Kavan Smith, Jill Teed, Elise Neal, Kim Delaney.
  • Directed by Brian De Palma.
  • Screenplay by Jim Thomas and John Thomas.
  • Produced by Tom Jacobson at Touchstone.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:37 PDT