Mission to Mars (Review)


Mission to Mars


2000
Starring
Gary Sinise as Jim McConnell
Tim Robbins as Woody Blake
Don Cheadle as Luke Graham
Connie Nielsen as Terri Fisher
Jerry O’Connell as Phil Ohlmyer


Mission to Mars. It sounds like a great concept for a movie, people going to Mars and setting up a base, only to encounter aliens. Sure, it’s been done before, but this movie will strive to make it more realistic scientifically. Plus, it’s got a great cast, Tim Robbims, Don Cheadle, Gary Sinise, Jerry O’Connell, the chick from Gladiator…how can it fail?

On every level, that’s how!

Not only is much of the science in this movie bunk (biology taking the greatest beating,) but many of the actions of the characters are also suspect, to the point that you throw your shoe at the movie screen. Let’s not talk about the ending for now.

It starts out happy enough, a party on Earth as the astronauts are saying goodbye as they are leaving for Mars soon. Other astronauts are there as well, who will be included in future Mars missions. Group 1 consists of Russian Guy and Russian Wife, Don Cheadle, and a horndog. The horndog has been taking fashion and girl-getting tips from Joey Tribiani, except he adds a feature: failing to get the girl. Also there is Tim Robbins and his wife, Connie Nielson (the girl from Gladiator, though at this point she was The Girl from The Devil’s Advocate), Jerry O’Connell, and latecomer Gary Sinise. By Sinise’s future car, we see it’s the future, which is then told to us a few minutes later that it is 2020. Sinise is still getting over his dead wife, otherwise he would be on the Mars mission himself. Cheadle, Sinise, and Robbins are old friends from astronaut school and reminisce old times, until Sinise spoils it by bringing up his dead wife. Damn it, Sinise!

13 months later…on MARS!

A scout rover sees something shiny in a mountain that the crew there thinks is ice. They go to investigate, all four of them leaving, so if something were to go wrong at base camp they’d all be screwed when they came back, but let’s ignore that for now, as soon they body count will rise. The Mars-nauts, this is Cheadle’s team, hear some weird noises. They blast the mountain with radar, which tells them the mountain is made of metal, with some dirt on top. The radar also sets off a giant tornado/worm thing that emerges and sucks up Russian Guy and Horndog. Russian Wife gets nailed in the face with a giant rock, and Don Cheadle is buried in red sand. Beneath the mountain, all is revealed when the dust settles, the mountain is a giant metal alien head! I bet you didn’t see that one coming! Don Cheadle manages not to die, and a rescue is planned, lead by Tim Robbins, with Gladiator-lady, Jerry O’Connell, and Gary Sinise.

This movie does manage to get right the time it will take to actually fly to Mars, so we don’t have to worry about the new characters getting to Mars three weeks later. It more realistically takes them a year or so to get there to see if Cheadle even is still alive, as the Martian head making the snake twister took out the navigation computers on the Mars Escape Craft, as well as most of the communication devices.

Now we are going to Mars. Biology first has to take a beating, though this is probably a joke (though may not be, considering what they say about DNA later in the film.) O’Connell has some M&M’s (product placement city) put up in zero G in a double helix, and tells Gary Sinise it’s the exact genetic composition of the perfect woman. Sinise responds by eating the M&M’s. Now this was only about 10 basepairs or so (people have 3 billion), which would require a lot of M&M’s. So hopefully this is just light-hearted zaniness. Thanks to seeing the rest of the movie, I now view this scene as a chilling sign of things to come. There is some dancing in low-gravity between husband and wife, which is watched by the lonely O’Connell and the widower Sinise, which must have been horrible nose-rubbing. This makes Sinise look at videos of his dead wife, who we find out is Kim Delaney from NYPD Blue fame.

MICROMETEORS! Jerry O’Connell gets nailed in the hand by one, as they burst through the ship’s hull. They cause oxygen leaks and pressure leaks, which will decompress the ship causing it to explode if not stopped. Luckily for us, the computer Joshua from Wargames is on hand to give us the countdown. Thanks to Dr. Pepper, the leak is located and the ship saved. Or not, because there are gigantic holes in the engine fuel lines that they don’t notice. Now a real NASA ship has sensors all over the place and would pick that up. So even if they have to go back inside quickly because of optimal orbit, they’d still know that doom is ahead. Also, let’s talk about product placement. It’s a bit more obvious when you are in a setting where there are only one or two products. At least they didn’t sell out completely, but both Dr. Pepper and M&M’s are integral to the plot. One wonders what the movie would have been like if the sponsors were California Raisins and Monostat 7.

It’s time to land on Mars! Except the holes in the engine fuel lines cause fuel to get dumped into space, which blows up the engine. Oops! Time to abandon ship. Luckily for them, the Resupply module (or Remo) is nearby, and they hop in their spacesuits and try to fly on over. From now on Physics will be thrown out the window along with Biology. Tim Robbins overshoots the Remo and drifts off into space, out of fuel. The other three make it, but Gladiator woman wants to save her husband, so she tries to fly out, and then send a grappling hook the rest of the way, as she can’t use all her fuel. The cable is but a few feet short. Instead of using 52% of her fuel, and retrying, then having on of the other two pull her in the last few feet, Tim Robbins decides to stop getting busy living, and to start getting busy dying, so he takes off his helmet to stop her. This instantly kills him, and has his head freeze. No, this would not happened, he would not instantly freeze. He would get a bad sunburn and all the air would be sucked out of his lungs, his eyes would be in trouble as well, but he would be alive for a little bit. I am not sure if he would freeze first or suffocate, whatever it would be, it wouldn’t be instantaneously, and not because they couldn’t think of something to do to save him from such a fate.

Now we got a widow and a widower, and a dead couple. What a good idea to use married couples on space missions, NASA. The surviving heroes land the ship and go hunting for Don Cheadle. They find the camp, and it’s still being used. Don Cheadle is there, having lived alone for a year he’s gone slightly bonkers at first, but calms down quickly, and is pretty well off for being alone on Mars for 13 months. He does have a beard and flowing dreadlocks, as Martian razors are expensive. After catching them up to speed about the giant metal alien head, he tells them about the weird noises, which turn out to be some sort of code. He has deciphered the patter, and it’s DNA! Sinise takes one look at the DNA and says “That DNA looks human!” Now, all DNA is made up of four base pairs, in every living thing, so unless Gary Sinise has the entire human genome memorized, and can spot a uniquely human pattern in the 6 base pairs on the screen (there isn’t one that small), this line is ridiculous. Not only that, they start calling base pairs Chromosomes, which is just as big of a mistake. I am convinced the writers never took a biology class, but one day watched a special on the History Channel while high on PCP and wrote this part of the film. That would also explain the ending. This DNA is human except it’s ONE base pair short (or one chromosome short, as they call it.) I won’t go into how wrong that is as well, except after Gary Sinise looks at some M&M’s, he realizes it’s a test, and they want the last base pair. I can only guess he remembered the commercial where if you eat the different colored M&M’s you score different hits in Little League, and he picked a green one, so he can hit the ball down town. In this case, the Green Base is A (or maybe it’s not, I wasn’t paying that close attention to this part of the movie, as it hurt so good) and it will open a giant alien head on Mars instead of scoring the winning run.

They send the Martian rover robot to send out the answering pattern, which opens a door in the side of the head. O’Connell gets the escape ship working, while Cheadle, Sinise, and Gladiator-lady go inside the head. The room inside is completely white, but switches to a holographic model of the solar system, and we see Mars is a lush, green planet. METEOR! Mars gets pounded, and it’s environmental holocaust for the Martians! A holographic Martian thus appears, to shed a single tear upon seeing the sight. Vomit. Hologram Martian then shows us all the Martians ships leaving Mars, to go to another galaxy. They don’t even bother to colonize anything in this galaxy, they have to go to another one. Fine, we don’t need you! One ship stays behind, to crash land into ancient Earth, complete with Martian DNA, which causes evolution on Earth to happen and people to evolve. Why don’t the Martians just colonize Earth? That is one of the great mysteries of Mars. All these Martians must have been high on PCP as well.

And now it’s….The Final Countdown (cue the song by Europe.) The Martian head has a spaceship in it, which is going to take off. Gary Sinise decides to stay and visit the Martians in their new Galaxy, where I wonder if they are still calling themselves Martians or something else, or if they even remember they left Mars 600 million years ago. The rest of the team blasts off of Mars before some storm arrives, and they head back to Earth, while Sinise lives out a combination of Close Encounters meets The Abyss (cause he’s breathing liquid air, or something.) One can only hope this is all an elaborate prank, and when Sinise gets to where the Martians are, they eat him.

Good Lord this stunk. The movie is a typical Hollywood chopshop “blockbuster” complete with all-star cast, big budget, special effects, and “dramatic tension.” Unfortunately, it fails to rise because they forgot to add the yeast, a good script. Instead, we get this half-written cliche-fest, full of obvious plot devices, destruction of science to hit plot points that could easily be changed to fit science with one line of dialog, and Dr. Pepper. Don’t be a Pepper, and don’t see this movie. This movie did have a rival Mars movie come out soon after, Red Planet, which I haven’t seen yet, but is on the watch table for later this month.

The Martians in this film plain suck. These are the worse Martians yet this month. They abduct people by building Giant Metal Heads and then leave the galaxy for 400 million years. Seriously, that’s the worse abducting I’ve ever seen, and I troll schoolyards to steal kids to sell on the black market in Mexico— wait, I mean I know nothing about stealing children. The Martians were around 400 million years ago, or whatever, and haven’t bothered to check in on us? And why won’t they evolve at all in 400 million years? The tear. My God, the tear. My friend and I burst out laughing in the theater when we saw the tear. As did many others. The tear is the high point of the film, as it symbolizes everything about this film, when Martians cry a single tear, the movie has left the station without the audience and is speeding out of control towards the washed out bridge. Superman is nowhere to be found.

And now a special treat, an interview with the Martian from Mission to Mars!

Greetings from Earth, Mr. Martian! It is Mr., right?
What the crap? We already did this joke, website writer! Find another gimmick for this guy!
Hello Earth Lizard. We seeded your DNA. You evolved from our tear-jerking selves. How do you like them apples?
Now I wish he’d go back to shutting up.
Have some DNA…
Get that away from me! I don’t even want to know where you got that!
I made it myself a few minutes ago. I was thinking about the Earth Woman Angelina Jolie and how she looks unclothed, and…
All right, shut up! We are leaving, and next time are screening the guests better. If I was in space, I’d yank open my helmet right now to get away from this guy! Interview over.

Rated 2/10


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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!