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Movie Reviews
Red Planet **

Finally, a new film from the people who brought you Virus, a film so utterly terrifying that is scared audiences so far from the theatres no one even remembers it came out. Scripter Chuck Pfarrer, who used to 'write' for comic books before the lure of hack-writing for bigger paychecks drew him to Hollywood, revisits several of the themes he explored in his previous film, namely the potential dangers of technology, the threat of alien intelligences, and masses of utter crapitude. This time, the crap in question takes place on Mars, which has gotten a great deal less exciting since Total Recall. Director Anthony Hoffman, fresh from the unemployment lines, decides to skip the whole 'setup' part of the narrative and just go ahead with a cheap narrative and character introduction that sounds like the dramatis personae of a Shakespear play, except without the big words. Despite the fact that the voice-over introduces far more characters that actually seem to be in the movie, it does manages to cut through all that pesky character development crap that gets in the way of stuff blowing up. In this brief intro. we meet Val Kilmer, who I think was supposed to be the 'party animal' character, which is signified by his Hawaian shirt, Tom Sizemore, who still continues to maintain he is not Michael Madsen with grey hair, and Terrance Stamp, introduces as the 'soul of the crew', which is a nice way of saying 'first one to die'. These wacky space jockies, led by Carrie-Anne Moss, are on a mission to Mars to do something or other with oxygen or algae or something. See, us Earthlings and our crazy rootin' tootin' pollutin' ways have rendered the Earth uninhabitable, so we must seek a way to terraform Mars, which proves to be quite difficult because there are man-eating bugs and killer robots on it. I knew I should have voted Green. So, we can see that the story, although set in the future, is as old as time itself, with a moral message to boot. The theme of mankind's selfishness destroying his environment is a familiar one,and the killer robot fear has been with us since we left the caves. The special effects, although occasionaly impressive, usually appear to have been designed on an Etch-a-Sketch, and while Mars itself looks pretty cool in this movie, I think that has more to do with the fact that New Mexico looks cool, rather that any special effects wizardry. Speaking of Etch-a-Sketch, I think the screenwriter needs to upgrade to a computer system that can support some slightly bigger words, because as fun as it is to have complicated scientific concepts like the terraforming of an alien planet explained by Val Kilmer in a series of grunts and monosylables, I tend to search for slightly more depth in my popcorn flicks. Maybe I'm asking too much, but while swearing at inanimate objects is something we've all done in the past, an epic sci-fi films tends to lose some of its mahesty when it ends with a guy flipping the bird to an entire planet. In my humble opinion, that gesture would be better served if directed at the movie screen.

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