Story: After the earth has been ravaged by the laziness and harmful practices of the human race, a new home is needed if the species is to survive. That aims attention on Mars, the hopeful location of a new human colony that can perhaps help humans evade extinction. In order to see if Mars is a viable option, a series of space probes are launched to bring different varieties of algae through space. When the probes land and the algae thrives, it results in green surfaces that no one likely expected, which means it is indeed a potential new home. But when things take a sudden turn for the worse, the algae seems to have vanished and with no other options, a crew is dispatched to Mars to investigate, but what awaits them on the infamous red planet?
Entertainment Value: I kind of dismissed Red Planet when it was released, as both this and Mission to Mars, which released around the same time, seemed like more action driven, watered down sci/fi, but that was an incorrect assumption. While I didn’t love Red Planet, it does feel like a fresh genre entry, as does take a different path than most Hollywood sci/fi, opting for a more deliberate approach, rather than non stop explosions. The narrative is interesting and offers some depth, not to mention this comes off as way more believable than most of its peers. I also appreciate how much of the science is taken from real life NASA experiences, as it does enhance the tension when situations seem more realistic, as opposed to action hero set pieces. The pace is slower of course, but that is countered with the above average story and skilled cast, but even so, those who enter with action focused expectations might call it too slow or even dull at times. I found it to be a solid sci/fi adventure with some memorable moments, so I think it deserves a recommendation. Red Planet might not get it all right, but it makes an effort and that helps the movie stand out from the pack.
Red Planet has a good ensemble cast, with a handful of central roles that share the burden of carrying the picture. Carrie-Anne Moss is quite good here and plays the mission leader well, especially shining in the more intense scenes. In line with the rest of the film’s tone, she handles those moments with more of a calm, scientist type approach, so while she is a skilled action performer, it was nice to see her acting skills take the spotlight here. I enjoyed seeing how Moss bounced off her costars and that extends to all the various combinations, as the cast is colorful and so are the characters, which means the “getting to know you” parts of Red Planet are fun to watch. Val Kilmer has the most memorable effort, as he is given some room to dial up and be more over the top at times, which he is able to do, while also balancing the serious, grounded tone of the picture. The cast also includes Simon Baker, Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt, and Terence Stamp.