The Worst Movies Ever: Mission To Mars
When you talk about great film makers, you’d be remiss to leave out Brian De Palma. If you take a look at the guy’s resume, you’ll see a significant amount of excellent movies (Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission: Impossible just to name a few), but there are a few blemishes. Today, we’ll take a look at his biggest failure, Mission to Mars, which is receiving my own personal notice for the Worst Movie Ever in the Science Fiction category.
That’s an achievement in itself, right? There are sooooo many bad science fiction movies that it would be easy to pick out a score of awful ones… Space Truckers springs to mind (one of those weird movies where Dennis Hopper is the bad guy… or maybe not, he’s at least in the movie… maybe I’m thinking of Water World, or Super Mario Bros.), but I give that a pass because it’s obviously a B movie that was made by nobody and features nobody but Hopper, so you know it’s going to bad right away – and Space Truckers only cost $25 million (which I know sounds like a lot of money, but for a science fiction movie, it’s not), and Mission to Mars cost $100 million. Somehow, the movie managed to gross nearly $111 million, so Touchstone Pictures didn’t get wrecked by a colossal failure, but it was a close one. There’s also the fact that there was so much premium talent involved in Mission to Mars, and yet it still sucks. HARD.
Is it just me, or is the trailer fairly intriguing? The disconnect between a well cut trailer and shizzy movie is vast – I saw this movie in the theater; People were audibly groaning. It was rough. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a movie audience come to rioting. It’s that bad.
Mission to Mars is paced like a college graduation – it drags endlessly. The movie opens with this long crane shot that establishes the barbecue at Don Cheadle‘s house; pay attention, film students, because it’s the very definition of unnecessary. There’s another boring ass crane shot that lasts forever inside their space vehicle which might have been interesting if it wasn’t done poorly and I hadn’t already seen it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. When I say it was done poorly, I don’t mean technically, I mean it just wasn’t well planned; you don’t know what you’re looking at or why you should care or what the focus is of the shot or the scene. It’s just a big piece of shiz. As the movie goes on, the pacing problems become an epidemic… the editing is often atrocious and individual shots last about twice as long as they should (something you need to look at for 3 seconds stays on the screen for 10 seconds – note the scene during which Gary Sinise is watching Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen dance in the space vehicle), but the editing is just strange. I kept thinking, “Why am I still looking at this?” And then they’d cut to something else, and then back to the thing I just stared at forever – the scene when they fire the radar at the mountain and the ‘security system’ activates is a good example of this. Why are they just standing there, waiting to get their ass kicked?!? Run, damn it! It’s the editing, and it’s terrible – if they had edited it in a way that made it seem as though the whole thing happened too fast for them to get away, the scene would have been a lot more plausible. Oh and the alien looked like shiz – this movie came out in 2000, so the bar for digital characters set by The Phantom Menace was not reached – not even close.
The dialogue is effing atrocious! I don’t think it’s because three people wrote the screen play (Jim Thomas, John Thomas, Graham Yost), because all of the characters speak in exactly the same way. It’s pretty hard to write dialogue for the purpose of exposition, and if you want to know how not to do it, this is a good movie to check out. The dialogue concerning the death of Jim’s (Sinise) wife is particularly bad every single time it rears its head – and it comes up about a thousand different times during the first hour of the movie. There’s also the scenes when they’re eon their way to rescue Luke (Cheadle); I know they’ve been on a space craft for six months and they’re excited to go to Mars, but they’re surprisingly fun-loving and even downright silly.
Action movies have a format, and I can accept that. You need an action beat – something needs to happen, explode, punch somebody in the face! – I’ve heard people say as often as every ten pages. I guess they decided they needed another action scene, because as the rescue mission is approaching Mars, they have to deal with a hull breach that comes from… where, I don’t know. Somehow, the hull got breached. Ultimately, this leads to the destruction of their ship and the death of Woody (Tim Robbins), who sacrifices himself so they won’t try to save him once he decides that he is beyond being saved. His wife is upset about this (yeah, members of the crew are married – seems like a good idea)… for about two minutes. The rest of the movie, it’s like it never happened; especially for her. This is bad writing. They story also makes note that Jim (Sinise) is a great pilot, but we never see him pilot anything – including the REMO (REsupply MOdule) that he flies from Mars orbit to the surface. That sounds hard, right? The damn thing looks like a satellite rather than a space craft, but he somehow safely guided it through the atmosphere to the planet’s surface. It sounds impossible and, more than that, like a great spectacle for a movie. But is it in the movie? No. Guess what else isn’t in the movie – when Luke’s (Cheadle) crew first lands on Mars. So what we’ve got here is a movie called Mission to Mars where we never see a space craft land on Mars, never see mankind take its first step on a new world, never have a science fiction recreation of the most famous moment in space travel when Niel Armstrong made his immortal statement… nothing. They just put, “6 Months Later,” up on the screen.
That’s just beautiful.
I think De Palma’s only direction to the actors must have been, “Just be really stoic, all the time – only show emotion when it’s absolutely necessary, like if you’re dying or somebody else is – and even then, reign it in.” Still, it’s hard to understand how so many good actors could turn in such boring, flat performances as they each demonstrate the emotional range of a tea spoon during immensely stressful situations in nearly every scene of the movie. At least Terri (Connie Nielsen) cries when her husband Woody (Robbins) dies… for a minute or so. Once they get to Mars, she’s all business.
Yeah, the effed up the sound track, too. Ennio Morricone‘s music is either totally inappropriate for the scene or is badly misused. He made weird choices… during the hull breach scene, there’s all this organ stuff going on. It doesn’t fit at all.
Half-Ass Remake of 2001?
Yep, that’s pretty much what it is. And while 2001: A Space Odyssey is long on style and kinda short on story, it’s a gripping film from start to finish. Mission to Mars is a boring piece of shiz that is fortunately less than two hours.
From start to finish, Mission to Mars is an ineffective disappointment that entertains no one. So if you have a serious hankering for Mars, I’d say stick to Mission: Space at EPCOT – coincidentally, the ride is also hosted by Gary Sinise.
Posted on April 14, 2011, in movie review and tagged Annette Bening, Brian De Palma, Connie Nielsen, Don Cheadle, Ennio Morricone, EPCOT, Gary Sinise, Graham Yost, Jim Thomas, John Thomas, mission space, mission to mars, mission to mars worst movie ever, mission to mars worst science fiction movie ever, Mission: Impossible, Mission: Space at Epcot hostted by Gary Sinise, Scarface, Space Truckers, The Untouchables, Tim Robbins, worst movie ever, worst science fiction movie ever. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.