Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mars movie review - Red Planet (2000)

Red Planet movie poster
In the time we all are waiting for the upcoming sci-fi blockbuster The Martian I decided to watch again and review Red Planet (2000) - a sci-fi movie stared by Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss with quite similar plot (astronauts trying to survive and get off Mars) as the The Martian but undeservedly low scored by the most critics.


In the first part of 21st century humans have totally polluted Earth and now are remotely trying to terraform Mars to make it a second home for humanity. For 20 years everything seems to be going according to the plan - temperatures on Mars has been raised and dispatched algae has been starting to cover more and more of the planet introducing oxygen in its atmosphere. Suddenly all the algae vanishes and there is no other way but to send a manned mission to find out - why this is happening.

It is year 2056 and a crew of 6 is being sent to Mars aboard the "Mars-1" in the first manned mission to Mars. When they reach the orbit of Mars their ship is struck by a particle burst from an unexpectedly powerful Solar flare. In result the electronics of Mars-1 is fried and fire is spreading through all the ship. 5 of 6 crew members eject the ship with landing module but the only female - ship's captain Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss) - stays on Mars-1 to save the ship.

The landing module is equipped with heat shield, parachutes and airbags but it slips the mountain edge and lands hard. They had landed far from the prearranged habitat (with water, food, oxygen and energy for 2 years) and 1 of them is severely injured so he decides not to slow down the others and is staying to die. The other 4 reaches the habitat only to discover that it is destroyed with all the oxygen, food and water gone. It's only minutes when their in-suit oxygen reserves will be depleted. Out of the eyes of others 2 of them has a quarrel and one of them accidentally slips the canyon edge and dies. If only that would matter in those conditions.. but it does, because when the first of them reaches the end of his oxygen reserves he opens his helmet in agony only to discover that he can breathe.. so Mars atmosphere has oxygen in sufficient levels for human not to die. The only question is - how?

The oxygen on Mars is a huge relief but the night is coming with its freezing temperature so they turn the remainder of the destroyed habitat into fire. But there comes the most deadly revelation - their military robot AMME which they had brought with them for navigation has malfunctioned in the result of crash-landing and turns hostile to them. It injures one of them and then leaves. On the morning they find the Sojourner rover from 1997 which happens to be nearby to make a radio device from its parts. When all hope has been lost that they will contact Mars-1 in the orbit of Mars Bowman responds and they make a plan to reach a 30 year old abandoned Russian sample return probe. The hope is they will be able to reach orbit with it.

It turns out it can (barely) hold only 2 of them. The night falls together with strong and cold wind but the clock is ticking off - Mars-1 should leave Mars's orbit in countable hours if they want ever to reach Earth with it. The one who is responsible for accidental push of his companion over the canyon edge earlier secretly leaves their shelter to reach the Russian probe alone... only to be killed by AMME in the dark. The remaining 2 discover his body full with strange bugs which happens to eat algae and produce oxygen. The mystery is solved but the injured one of them is besieged by the same bugs and he sacrifices himself by igniting the oxygen and burning all of the bugs. The remaining one - the "space janitor" Gallagher (Val Kilmer) - reaches the Russian sample return probe, turns it up, lures the AMME robot into a trap to get its power source for the probe and finally takes off to the orbit where he is retrieved by Bowman.

Verdict: 8/10

Most movie critics are hard against Red Planet because of its standard characters and modest dialogues, giving it as low as 3 or 4 points from 10. From my point of view Red Planet is definitely not as bad as that. I would give it (only) 2 points bellow max 10 (the quality level of "the ideal Mars movie") and its drawbacks are two:
  • quite a few unrealistic moments (breathable atmosphere made by bugs impossibly fast; lifting off from Mars in an old, unpressurized sample return vehicle and others)
  • some things the movie left unexplained (for example - how those small bugs could tear apart the habitat?).


All the HD images are made by myself and here are in chronological order (open link in new tab to view in full resolution):

Shuttle from Red Planet movieSpacecraft in Mars orbit from Red Planet movie

Spacecraft in Mars orbit from Red Planet movieLanding with airbags on Mars from Red Planet movie

Landing with airbags on Mars from Red Planet movieDispersing fire in space from Red Planet movie

Spacecraft in Mars orbit from Red Planet movieAstronauts on Mars from Red Planet movie

Astronauts on Mars from Red Planet movieVal Kilmer on Mars from Red Planet movie

Astronauts on Mars from Red Planet movieDestroyed Mars habitat from Red Planet movie

Destroyed Mars habitat from Red Planet movieAstronauts at edge of Martian canyon from Red Planet movie

Astronauts and Sojourner rover from Red Planet movieRobot Amme watching astronauts from Red Planet movie

Astronauts on Mars from Red Planet movieAlgae on terraformed Mars from Red Planet movie

Liftoff from Red Planet movieCarrie-Anne Moss from Red Planet movie

My reviews of other movies set on Mars:


  1. "(for example - how the habitat got destroyed?)"

    I'm three and a half years late to the party, lol, but Val Kilmer's character said around 1h28m in that the bugs destroyed it.

    1. Thanks for clarification. The question remains - how those small bugs could tear apart the habitat?