Monday, March 31, 2008

Red Planet (2000, USA)

Another B-film with an A-film budget, Red Planet is both a bore and good example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood product. No real story, no real character development, no point. A complete and utter waste of time that might, in about 20 years, achieve some sort of cheesy, camp veneer and become an enjoyable laugh – much the same way a number of similar titled bad sci-fi films from the fifties are enjoyed today.
That Red Planet is an blatant if uninteresting and bland homage to the classic and not-so-classic space films of the atomic age, as is already obvious by the film's title, an overt nod to Harry Horner's 1952 commie-scare sci-fi flick Red Planet Mars and the cult favorite The Angry Red Planet (1959). Two grating aspects of Red Planet are lifted directly from one of the campiest of all space soaps of that era, the George Pal produced turkey Conquest of Space (1955). The long, badly intoned explanatory monologue by Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss) sounds less like the plausible future possibility (as it should) than like a direct continuance of the embarrassingly racist and dated monologue about the Japanese, their food and chop sticks given by Imoto (Benson Fong) in Conquest of Space. Likewise, all the dialog about god and faith given by Dr. Bud Chantilas (Terence Stamp) is oddly reminiscent and equally out of place as that to be found in Pal's production.
One can argue about which of the two films is actually the worst, but Conquest of Space has the excuse of innocence and idealism, whereas Red Planet has no excuse at all. The film is an embarrassing film debut for director Hoffman (and, as might be expected, his only film to date), revealing him to have a hack mentality perfect for television drama, and for the film's stars, most of whom should have known better. A kiddy film with one gratuitous nude scene, the first scene of men pissing on mars and a dozen predictable plot twists, the script was not as much written as simply culled from a dozen other films. (Not surprising, seeing that one of the scriptwriters, Chuck Pfarrerr, is the man behind three other equally derivative disappointments, Sam Rami's Dark Man (1990), the cleavage-driven wanna-be cult film Barb Wire (1990) and John Woo's Hard Target (1993).)
And the plot? In 2050 a bunch of astronauts go to mars, most of whom end up crash landing on mars where they die one by one. Oh yeah, there are some nasty cockroaches there that eat everything and are capable of crawling up your ear and eating you from the inside without you even noticing it – and they are the eventual salvation of mankind! That one of the crew is a woman is due to any sense of equality, reality or P.C. than simply to add another pointless (love) sub-plot. Neither involving nor entertaining nor even slightly suspenseful, Red Planet is a true piece of shit.

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