Review: “Red Planet”

Call me nuts but I’m a sucker for action blockbusters with frantic pace. As long as the action comes thick, fast and with some good intensity I can overlook plot holes the size of Texas and cobbled together scripts.

A film like “Cliffhanger” has little or nothing in the way of character development – but gosh darn it I love those films where its one problem after another with the hero desperately trying to solve it. Call it a lack of class, but its like times when I’ve been in a fancy restaurant and while the $20+ steak is nice a $5 McDonalds Qtr Pounder meal I would enjoy much more.

“Red Planet” borrows from the same arena with lots of fast action coming one bit after another, with only the thinest plot and characters to keep it together. Nevertheless it proves WAY more engaging and entertaining than the horrific piece of cinematic crud that was “Mission to Mars”.

Sure M2M had loftier ambitions but the ‘we are not alone’ themes have not only been done to death countless times over and in vastly superior ways (Note to DePalma – see “The Abyss”), but here it was done in the most excruciating ways possible with the “Thai princess looking, very computer-animated” alien at the end eliciting laughs from audiences – even now I want to wretch at that horrid, horrid movie. Thankfully this is better but is certainly a film for sci-fi nuts only with lots of technobabble.

What I truly like about it though is its gritiness and feeling of reality – sure its about spaceships and planet landings but things are kept simple, straightforward and moving. The production design and FX are truly stunning which is not surprising as most of the crew worked on “The Matrix”. Sound is also used quite well.

The AMEE subplot is pretty standard though is actually not to bad, but its the general mystery plot about the planet and why there’s oxygen that proves more interesting and dare I say it more realistic. Its resolved in typical Hollywood over the top style but its still pretty darn good.

Red Planet is not a particularly strong sci-fi movie that’s for sure, but in a year in which the genre has been plagued by some of the worst films ever (M2M, Battlefield Earth, etc.) this proves to be a highlight in an otherwise very disappointing period. Certainly a nice escape for a few hours.