Entertaining but very silly old-fashioned sci-fi
Released in the year before the setting of Kubrick's incomparable
eponymous masterpiece "2001", this flick makes an interesting point of
contrast. There is a similar attempt to create a sense of realism in
space technology which even includes 2001 style rotating toroid
centrifuges. A contribution to which being 2001 style inclusion of
corporate logos ( e.g. Toshiba ). There is a referential "HAL moment"
when the robot AMEE watches the crew discussing "her" destruction and
decides not to cooperate. There are attempts at a spiritual profoundity
in the "philosophising" of the character played by Terence Stamp ( who
I invariably confuse with Jeremy Irons ). However, there is a
fundamental polar opposition between the two movies.
Kubrick declared that he wanted to make the "proverbial good science
fiction movie". In other words, something fundamentally distinct from
the regular "B"-movie efforts of the fifties and early sixties, such as
"The Conquest of Space" or "Forbidden Planet". A work that would be
thoroughly researched and designed from the facts up, rather than
starting with an adventure scenario and then hanging picturesque design
around it. In that ambition, Kubrick undoubtedly succeeded. there is
nothing in "2001" that does not make scientific or technological sense.
On the other hand, "Red Planet" represents the modern equivalent of
exactly the kind of movie that Kubrick was seeking to render history.
From the very beginning, as it sets out in the use of an intrusive
narration which Kubrick specifically denounced as un-cinematic. A
narration which outlines a completely ridiculous scenario: that the
mission to Mars was part of a plan to find a new home for Earth's "12
billion" people. So, are they going to ferry 12 billion people to Mars?
The use of an airbag lander, whilst topically derived from that seen on
the Pathfinder Mars probe landed at the time of the movie is
technically inconceivable for a manned vehicle. In fact, NASA has
already abandoned the device, planning in the next round of missions to
break the vehicle's descent and hover it at 10 metres altitude. By
contrast, the landing in Red Planet is mind-bogglingly crude.
Admittedly, this was portrayed as an emergency measure. But who designs
an emergency measure that we know 80 years beforehand will not work?
Then there is that emergency. An emergency, OK, in any plot that can be
thrown in. But here we have in fact SEVEN unexpected emergencies all
occurring in the space of a few minutes: The solar flare radiation
burst, the fire resulting, the loss of orbital stability due to
atmospheric venting, the fire in the descender requiring jettison of
the undercarriage, the bad landing on the back up system, the fact that
it's miles from target and that that base in itself has been
On the other hand, we also have a string of ridiculously implausible
strokes of good fortune. For a start, that the crew just happen to be
within walking distance of an ancient radio. Then that they are ALSO
within walking distance of a Russian vehicle. Then the weird fact that
the ascender on the Russian vehicle had not been used. Even though it
turns out to have been entirely usable! So we have three landing points
within walking distance of each other on an entire planet.
Added to which we must wonder why an unmanned sample vehicle would have
aboard it an operating console with a VDU and Windows-like
user-friendly operating system complete with decorative GIF's?
Then we have the fundamental premise: that environmental calamity
spells doom for humanity. Many thing's pose a hazard to our future.
Many reasons exist to explore space. But atmospheric pollution and
global warming are not one connecting to the other.
On the other hand, the idea that the Terraforming of Mars could produce
a breathable atmosphere in less than a few centuries of activity,
Nematodes or no Nematodes, is daft beyond measure. And what about the
atmospheric pressure? Where did all the extra atmosphere come from?
These things aside, the movie is very nicely designed. The space suits
are great. They remind me of the designs for "Zero X" in "Century 21"
comic, circa 1967. The sound of conversations within the helmet is very
atmospheric.Best of all is the robot, superbly threatening and vividly
realised. I would expect that in the distant time that this movie is
set this might be the only feature of it that doesn't appear
Regard this movie as our present-day equivalent of an old sci-fi
"B"-movie and just enjoy the fun. Otherwise, reflect on how little
progress there has been in cinema since 1968 ( when 2001 was released
), if any. Above all, Red Planet is much better than the risible
"Mission to Mars" that came out at about the same time..
What did they expect?
I thought it was a good film, though you can recognize every great sci-fi
film made before. A little bit too much subjects involved (crime, love,
environmental pollution, action, science). But the only thing that puzzles
me REALLY: Why the **** do they take a deadly military fighting robot up
there? I almost expected Sojurner to rise as a mutant monster! BTW, this
would not be the first time: "Star Trek - The Movie"....