Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 3/13/01
2000 (2001) - Warner Bros.
review by Todd Doogan of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
107 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, 8 deleted
scenes (15 mins worth), cast and crew bios, film themed menu screens
with music, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English and
French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned
"You want me to
shut up and let you die quietly?"
What is it about Mars that Hollywood can't seem to leave it alone?
First came the awful Mission to Mars,
then this and now James Cameron is talking about doing a Mars movie
(which promised to be stuffy and over-realized). At least this movie
is kinda fun - a throwback to classic, B-grade sci-fi, if you will.
Red Planet takes place about
50 years in the future. As we hear in a bit of cliched and
unnecessary voiceover from Ms. Matrix,
Carrie-Anne Moss, the Earth is on the brink of destruction due to
overpopulation and pollution. Our only hope for survival is to
inhabit Mars, and the first steps in doing so have been taken. The
C02 ice caps on Mars have been detonated,
which has melted them into the atmosphere. A layer of algae has been
spread over the surface and the alga is turning the C02
into 02, to create a breathable atmosphere.
But something has gone wrong. For some inexplicable reason, the alga
has up and disappeared in a six-month period. Not died, not dying -
disappeared. But how is that possible? A team of scientists and
astronauts has been rounded up and are being sent into space to find
The team leader is Commander Bowman (Moss), an ex-Navy, no bull
type of chick who's more man than most the actual men of the ship.
But, thanks to an obligatory shower scene, we see that she's still
all woman. Next up is her co-pilot (the future Mr. Julia Roberts),
Benjamin Brat, who's as hot-headed as they come and is definitely
full of himself... among other things. The science crew includes
Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), a world class geneticist who mistakes his
Cs for Ps (pay attention to the film and you'll know exactly what
I'm talking about) and Pettengil (Simon Baker), a last minute
replacement to the mission (which almost automatically spells
certain doom, doesn't it?). Also on board is a veteran
scientist/astronaut turned philosopher, Chantilas (Terence Stamp),
and the ships janitor... er, mechanical engineer, Gallagher (Val
Kilmer). Oh... and let's not forget AMEE, a military robot
reprogrammed to help the ground crew navigate.
After six months of travel time to the big red rock, the ship is
bombarded by solar flare radiation and all but Bowman are forced to
jump ship and land on Mars early. But the landing craft wasn't
properly shielded and, without it's autopilot functioning properly,
it crashes on the surface, stranding the crew. Worse yet, whatever
it was that removed the algae from the surface also destroyed their
yet-to-be-manned base, which housed six months of food, water and
oxygen. With the air in their suits running out, no food and no way
back to their mother ship, the crew will likely not survive the
night. And if the harsh Martian environment doesn't kill them, a
malfunctioning AMEE will.
Red Planet is fun because it's
about people and how they deal with the problems they're thrown
into. Yeah, sure... it's a little hard to suspend belief in this
film at times, and there are a few too many plot holes. But come on
- nobody watches 1950s-era Sci-fi films and says they suck because
you can't believe them, right? They're just entertaining. Nothing
more and nothing less. In a lot of ways, Red
Planet is a modern day throw back to those types of
films. Smart people trying to fix a problem with technology and save
their own asses. The production design is cool, the threats are as
real as they need to be (or you, as an audience, let them be) and
there's a few moments that will have you on edge. This is hardly a
great film, and I'm not saying that it is. But I was surprised to
find that I liked it.
This Warner DVD presents the film with a beautiful anamorphic
widescreen transfer. Colors are bright and smooth, with mostly solid
blacks. The only times I ever saw any problems were with some of the
digital effects - occasionally, they don't quite blend well enough
with the filmed images. But this is in no way a problem with the
transfer. This is about as good a transfer as you can get, even for
being spread over only one single layer of a disc.
The sound, on the other hand, could have been punched up a bit in
my opinion. The movie would have sounded great with a DTS track -
why this film doesn't have one is a head scratcher. But the Dolby
Digital 5.1 audio sounds clear and clean enough, with just enough
play in the surrounds to draw you in. Listen, for example to the
directional effects involving AMEE's flying remote probe - nice. All
in all, it's good DVD audio - not great, but good.
The extras are relegated to 15 minutes worth of deleted and
extended scenes (8 scenes in all). Not one of them deserved to be in
the film - you can see why they were cut. The quality of these is
only slightly better than VHS, with the darker shots exhibiting
grain and other artifacts - work print footage probably. There's
also cast and crew listing with filmographies. There's no trailer,
which is mildly surprising. But what are you going to do?
Red Planet is an okay film.
It's not very plausible and it's full of bad science... but that's
okay. Nobody said making movies was brain surgery. And making Sci-fi
movies these days is even less so it seems. Bottom line: if you like
campy, 1950s rocketship flicks, you'll love this.