"Let there be life" was this movie's tagline when it came out in 2000. "Let there be death" would be a better choice in this disaster of a space movie. Not to be confused with Red Planet, this is the incomprehensible movie where Tim Robbins, Gary Sinese, Jerry O'Connell, and Don Cheadle ruined their careers. Max and the bots face their toughest challenger yet, as they watch four hapless astronauts try to save one stranded astronaut, and return with only half the crew intact. Along the way they discover the secret to all life on Earth, product placement.
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Mission to Mars is truly awful, probably one of the worst films I've ever seen, and that's saying a lot. It's even, dare I say it, worse than Fantastic Four (but not worse than Breakfast of Aliens). From the dull confused party at the beginning to the "stupidest death ever seen on film" to the "fascist march of evolution" to the tear-jerk (half right) ending, this movie sucked the big one.
The movie opens at a stupid party which we have no idea what it's for or why half the people look depressed and the other half ecstatic until 20 minutes in to the film. It turns out that some people get to go to Mars and others don't. I *think* the people going were the depressed ones, but I couldn't tell, because everyone looked brooding and no one could act.
People finally get to Mars, and we have Stupid Death #1 (hit in face with rock while wearing spacesuit) and Stupid Death #2 (spun like a top so fast that your arms, legs, and head fly off). It turns out this was caused by the dread Face on Mars (if you've ever seen the Weekly World News, you know what this is). Cut to a space station lifted straight from 2001. People are worried that they can't talk to the Mars folk, so they mount a rescue operation (good idea: send 4 people to save one likely dead person). So the next 4 people go to Mars.
It's now a few months later, and after conquering dancing and space BBs (with tango music and Dr Pepper, respectively - I kid you not!) the rescue team might crash into Mars, because the space BBs caused the fuel line to somehow leak fuel, which froze, flew back towards the engines, and then ignited, blowing up the ship (I kid you not!). So they abandon ship and fly towards a satellite that they can use to land. Except that Tim Robbins overshoots, and we then have stupid death #3, or The Stupidest Onscreen Death Ever. Tim is drifting towards Mars with no way to stop. His wife tries to save him, but her tether line falls just short of him. Rather than move closer, she floats there like a doofus, shouting "I won't watch you die!" Tim's response, like a caring husband (nee twit) is to reply "I can't be saved," then REMOVE HIS HELMET WHILE IN OUTER SPACE AND IMMEDIATELY DIE RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER!!! After a brief fit, she doesn't seem to care for the rest of the movie. I think this was Tim's way of getting out of this stink bomb before it got worse.
So the 3 left land and make it to the first survivor, we don't know how. They figure out that the Face is a riddle, and the answer is M&Ms, I mean DNA (sounds like Rael wrote the script). They have to deduce the final group of "chromosomes" (actually, nucleotides, y'know, CGTA) of humans to open the face, which they do. Now it just gets dumb.
After a bad CGI sequence where everyone in the theater laughed at how dumb it was, we see the aliens, and learn that they're really us, 4 billion years ago. Mars was hit by a meteor, so instead of going to Earth, they went to another galaxy, leaving behind one ship to put human DNA on Earth. Enter the Fascist March of Evolution, which explains how every living thing on Earth contains human DNA, and caused life to evolve from amoebas to bony fish to amphibians to crocodiles to brachiosaurs to woolly mammoths to buffalo which Man (which we have no idea where HE came from, since he didn't evolve) hunted. HUH???!? BTW, despite the fact that the aliens are supposed to be humans, they look nothing like us except are bipedal, that is unless humans are supposed to be bright orange, translucent, and 7 feet tall.
So now they have to leave back for earth, but Gary Sinese wants to stay, and take the alien Face, which is really a ship, "home" to wherever the aliens/humans are from. Best line from the audience: a girl in front of us said "Yeah, he does look kinda like them." referring to Sinese. So... what makes Sinese think that he'll have ANYTHING in common with aliens that were more advanced than us (I think the implication was that they were the next step up the evolutionary ladder from human) 4 billion years ago?? I mean, it's staggering that he assumes that they won't have evolved at all whereas we evolved through the entire Fascist March of Evolution. NASA may have consulted to make the space scenes accurate, but obviously biology is NOT their forte, there were SO many bad biology mistakes. Argh.
The others head back to blast off for Earth, and Gary stays behind to be put into a giant bong on the alien ship. (It's a bong, it fills with smoke and then bong water) He's transfixed, and sees wonders more incredible than any ever seen before in human history. At least, I assume that's what he saw. That's what the music and the press release imply. But they must be so incredible that we're not ready to handle it, because all that we the audience gets to see is his stupid smirking nonblinking face close up for about four and a half minutes. I think everyone in the audience was groaning and in pain here. I know I wasn't the only one. Both ships take off, and nearly crash into each other (the audience was hoping they would crash), and the alien ship flies off to another galaxy at the speed of light, to a resounding HUH? from the audience.
So, aside from the crappy acting, the lack of plot, the boring dragging on of any sort of story, the poor science, the STUPID deaths, the music that was upbeat during depressing moments and somber during uplifting moments and too loud all the time, the dumb product placement, the lack of any sense at all from any sort of explanation, the lack of caring from characters or audience, and the fact that good stars ruined their careers with this stinker, it could have been an ok movie, if it hadn't sucked so hard. It's the kind of movie that makes you want to hunt down the director and writer, torture them with exquisite torture, all the while asking "Why? For the love of God, why??"
Entertainment Weekly for the week of March 13, 2000 gives a bit of insight into why Mission to Mars is so bad. Apparently it's the first movie filmed under the Space Act Agreement, where NASA will allow Hollywood to film Kennedy Space Center and the NASA logo in exchange for allowing NASA astronauts to edit the script for "realism" (Last time NASA did something like this it was called Space Camp. Make of that what you will). We all know what great scriptwriters those NASA guys are, right?
Entertainment Weekly: "the answers [to the big mystery of the movie are] right out of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with DePalma [the director] waving 'So long and thanks for all the fish!'"
Here's what CNN.com had to say...
(CNN) -- Merely labeling "Mission to Mars" as just another run-of-the-mill bad movie would be a huge disservice to bad movies everywhere. No, "Mission to Mars" takes bad to a whole new level. This film is mind boggling and stupid, a derivative piece of doo-doo that's an embarrassment for all involved.
Note that this is likely the first time that CNN has released a report on anything that contained the word "doo-doo".