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Mission to Mars
In the year 2020, NASA lands a team on Mars. The crew encounters trouble and the only word from them is a cryptic message left by the Mission Commander (Don Cheadle). The hastily prepared rescue...  View more >

Starring Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Tim Robbins...  View more >

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Reviews Summary

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Mar 10, 2000
Very poor plot, the movie stopped just when it could have gotten really interesting. Very full of cliches. The whole cast could have used an acting coach. It could have been a good movie. The only bright side was the photography and some of the special effects. Similar special effects were seen in the Mummy.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Mar 11, 2000
mission to mars is an awsome movie with great special effects and a mind bending storyline. I just saw it last night and i am already going to see it again today and i urge you to do the same.
Mar 11, 2000
First of all let me say that if you saw the action packed trailer on TV for
this movie and are expecting more of the same once you go see it.....stay
at home, because the film isn't like that at all.

Remember the 1997 movie Contact starring Jodie Foster? This film is much more like Contact than something like the action filled 1998 film, Armageddon.

With the expectations firmly established, let me say that while this film
is certainly not a "great film", I didn't mind spending the time and money
to see it.

The movie stars Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Tim Robbins, Jerry O'Connell
and Kim Delaney. It is set 20 years into the future (2020), and revolves around a manned mission to the red planet, Mars. The objective is to set up a small colony and explore the planet. A second mission is scheduled to go up and replace that crew after about a year.

Shortly after the first crew arrives a Mars Rover type of vehicle makes an
interesting discovery that the crew goes out to investigate in person. Disaster ensues, and the second mission becomes a rescue mission.

I found the action sequences to be very gripping and I sat in awe of the Martian landscapes that the digital experts put together for us on film.

The score seemed a bit erratic, with a non-traditional use of music in some scenes. The film makes good use of a full digital sound installation. You must see this picture at a digitally equipped theater.

Like Contact, the movie leaves you asking questions, questions about
possible life on Mars. It was a good film. Well worth seeing at a
matinee price.

Copyright 2000 - Ron Higgins No unauthorized publication or distribution without the consent of Ron Higgins.
[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Mar 11, 2000
PLEASE NOTE: Despite my rating of "Wait for Rental," my feelings lie between "Rental" and "Good" which will be explained in the review below.

If discretion is the better part of valor, then it certainly has a leg up on film criticism as well. I cite as an example the public crucifixion of Brian De Palma's "Mission to Mars." It is the opinion of many that this may very well be the worst movie ever made - a bold statement considering the number of... well, you get the idea - a very bold statement. I cite as another example a comment I overheard after leaving the theatre. A young man in his twenties, attempting to impress his girlfriend, made the observation that: "the film isn't at all good because it doesn't surpass the brilliance of Kubrick's '2001'." I wanted to lean over, tap him on the shoulder and say: "Psst. Hey pal, I'll let you in on a little secret... no science-fiction movie does."

Am I saying "Mission to Mars" is great cinema? No, I'm not. An argument could be made that at its best, it is the B-movie equivalent of "Contact." But there is also an engaging innocence to the film. It's a movie that relishes in the joy of discovery, and doesn't feel the need to apologize for it... nor should it. Watching critics pan the film reminds me of the age kids get to when they flat out refuse to admit they ever enjoy anything out of fear of not being "cool."

The story is set approximately twenty years into the future. Apparently having overcome the failure of the first Mars Polar Lander, we have since set foot on the red planet and are in the process of conducting scientific experiments with regards to possible colonization. But something has gone wrong - a murky and static-filled video message is sent back to the "World Space Station." There has been an accident, and a rescue mission is being assembled. The team, led by Commander "Woody" Blake (Tim Robbins) and Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise), must set down on Mars, determine the nature of the accident, locate survivors, and immediately return. Of course, the mission runs into its share of snags along the way. In addition, the objective becomes altered when the crew is faced with the possibility of discovering something that could permanently alter the future of mankind. Now who could pass that up?

The engine that drives any scientific endeavor (including science-fiction filmmaking) is the joy and innocence of discovery - the desire to stand on the threshold of a generation and look beyond, as stated eloquently by one of the characters in "Mission to Mars." That's why I'm truly baffled at the negative reaction to the film. With the success of the Star Wars films (what essentially were Westerns set in outer space), the mentality has shifted a bit. We've gone from appreciating true scientific discovery to blasting away lizard-like aliens with a vast array of weaponry. I guess that explains some of the reaction.

The movie has only one flaw, albeit a substantial one - if you're going to make a film about discovery, you must build up to the moment, taking your time and whetting the audience's appetite for what's about to be unveiled. The structure of the story is awfully disjointed. Instead of the events leading methodically to the journey's powerful conclusion, the elements feel somewhat haphazardly thrown together, as if the writers were trying to second-guess where the audience would want an action sequence. Basically, we're taken to Mars too early. The first half-hour cuts back and forth between the red planet and the space station, which sadly takes away any sense of awe and wonder later in the film when the rescue team sets down. Unfortunately, the story's uneven structure undermines the impact of the movie's conclusion. It's too bad, because I actually liked what was discovered. It just didn't have the power it might have if led up to in a more effective manner. I admired the decision to make an innocent film about exploration - I just wish it has been constructed in a manner capable of conveying the power and importance of the discovery.

Because of the awkward story structure, I'm unable to give the film a solid
recommendation. Yet contrary to what many others might say, "Mission to Mars" doesn't insult the intelligence, but rather asks the viewer to think back to a time when the idea of uncovering something new was the backbone of our existence - driving us toward a better future for ourselves and those we feel close to. Come on, folks. Have we really gotten too cynical for that? I hope not.

--Michael Brendan, "Mad Dog" Film Reviews (http://www.maddogreviews.com)
Mar 12, 2000
I went into this film with low expectations, having read some reviews (ranging from "fair" to "negative") and viewed part of the trailer. My primary motivation was to see a film projected digitally by Texas Instrument's DLP Digital Cinema technology, and Mission to Mars held enough interest to make the 2-hour trip to Barrington, Illinois to view the future of cinema in action. (More on the technology later in this review.)

Critics have panned this film, with some to the point of seemingly calling for director Brian De Palma's head, and I don't quite understand the extreme negative reactions. While this doesn't reach the level of filmmaking as the excellent "Contact" it is nowhere near as bad as the reviews make it out to be.

With science fiction films like Deep Impact, Armageddon, and a host of lesser films, perhaps the appetite for a good sci-fi film causes a higher expectation from filmmakers that have done good films in the past. Ignoring that expectation, however, Mission to Mars is a good film, it's just not a really good or great film.

My biggest complaint with Mission to Mars is the focus of the film, who is Gary Sinise's Jim McConnell. We learn early on that McConnell was the lead guy to be the first man on Mars, with his fellow-astronaut wife. We find out that she fell ill and died, which caused him to withdraw from the rotation and lose his status as "first in line."

This setup should cause us to bond with the character and be interested in his journey through the adventures that bring him to Mars and the amazing discovery they find once they arrive. Instead, there is no interest generated, and the viewer finds himself trying to find interesting characteristics of the others involved in the adventure.

Unlike the sense of wonder generated by the conclusion of "Contact," there isn't the same involvement here. You are left to observe, and not experience, what is transpiring.

All that aside, however, the visuals are impressive. The concepts raised in this film are interesting and that combination helps to make up for the lagging character development. Well worth the trip to the theater.

About the DLP Digital Cinema Presentation
This was my first experience with any digital cinema technology, where the movie is not projected by film being run through a traditional projector, but rather by a digital projector displaying a movie that is stored on a hard drive.

This technique is being hailed as the future of theatrical presentations, and based on what I saw, the quality is up there with traditional film. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't trade-offs.

The best thing about the presentation was the lack of any annoying "film jitter" which is the distracting jumping of the image as the film passes through the projector. The black level, which is a concern with most non-film presentations, was very good. Overall picture quality matched the 35mm presentation in the theater next door, perhaps with finer detail present in the traditional presentation.

You could notice some "screen door" effects that pointed out the fact that the image was made up of many pixels. This was not severe, and was noticeable only in certain scenes, and did not distract me from thoroughly enjoying the film.

I look forward to the further improvement of this technology and wider distribution in theaters. The advantages that this technology brings (and the lack of major disadvantages) will surely win over audiences and theaters alike.
[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Mar 12, 2000
-= Mission To Take My $7.75 =-

I thought the special effects graphics and sounds were excellent. The story started good and potential for a good movie was present. However, the movie goes down hill once the people reached Mars surface. It became unrealistic and uninteresting, even for a sci-fi fan like myself. This definitely belongs in the "wait for blockbuster" category. I think this movie should be renamed to: Mission to Take My $7.75! They succeeded, bastards!!
[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Mar 13, 2000
Well, it's with some regret that I must put a "Wait for Video Rental" rating on this film. If you can find a low-priced discount theater in a shopping mall where you can see this film for a buck-50 or so, it's worth it.

"Mission to Mars" looks like two films, in my view. The first is a suspense-filled drama that sets up some engaging characters and then throws them into some deadly situations to see who gets out, and who doesn't. The second is an all-too-touchy-feely "close encounter" that others, namely Spielberg, and to some extent, James Cameron, have done far, far better. I found the first part to be breathlessly exciting and emotionally wrenching at times. I found the second part to be flat, dull and lifeless, despite the "origin of life" theme that permeated it.

Brian DePalma is, if nothing else, a student and master of suspense. In more than one film, ("Dressed to Kill," especially, comes to mind), he pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with innovative, if not torturous, camera styles and direction that draw out a suspenseful sequence to a very last-gasping conclusion. I'm a nut for films like this. And unlike other directors who take you to the edge of a cliff, and then yank you back gratefully, DePalma tends to lead you to the edge of the cliff, and then push you over. The result can be poignant and greatly tragic. With DePalma, you never know for sure if the "good guys" are going to make it, and that's partly what makes his films so interesting and entertaining to watch.

So is "Mission to Mars," that is until the fateful secrets of its plot are unlocked. That's when science fiction is supposed to kick in, and here, it's as if DePalma doesn't have a clue as to how to handle it. It's not handled very well, I'm afraid, and I'm almost persuaded that DePalma had one film in mind, and the producers had another. In the first part of the film there are scenes of truly grisly horror, albeit brief, that appropriately establish a sense of menace and dread that accompany great suspense films. You have to put the heroes in real danger to maximize the suspenseful value; any afficionado of Hitchcock knows that, and so does DePalma. But this movie is rated PG; very unusual for a DePalma film (mostly R). Perhaps the producers reined DePalma in at the end, and ordered up a few special effects for continuity (all Industrial Light and Magic) just to tie up loose ends, so to speak. I'm only speculating, of course. Had DePalma truly intended the film to conclude the way it did, you could chalk it up as flawed foray into PG-land by a director who just doesn't have a penchant for it.

It's all too conveniently wrapped and very, very cliched in my book. Worth a viewing, to be sure, but not at 7 dollars a head. However, non-discriminating viewers who merely want to enjoy a "family-rated" movie may find it worthwhile, so long as they cover up the eyes of younger ones (8 and under) a couple of times. There are not enough films made in that category.
[--- Good ---]by  
Mar 13, 2000
"Mission to Mars" has the visual appeal of 2001: A Space Oddessy, but with 1/100th of the intelligence.

Set in the year 2020, a second crew is sent to Mars to discover the fate of the first crew sent. Much of the first half of the movie is the "debate" whether or not to go. In my opinion, this is a waste of time since we already know they are going to go. Very easily they could have cut 30 minutes of the bickering out and just got on the way. Then the film works hard to build suspense whether the crew will successfully land on Mars (another waste since we wouldn't be in the theater if they didn't make it). A great deal of the film is wasted before and during the trip to the Red Planet. However, it is played in such a way that the teen crowd will, no doubt, find it appealing. The movie finally picks up the pace after the crew lands, and a decent sci-fi flick emerges from this point on.

If they had cut about 30 minutes of the trip to Mars, it would have been a more enjoyable film. I saw this film at Westown on the giant screen, with digital sound and THX. Plus I saw it at the matinee ($5). That had to have made my experience a much more enjoyable one. In my opinion, that is about what the movie is worth. If you can see it at a top notch theater with all the bells and whistles, and at the cheap show, you'll come out fairly satisfied. Otherwise, you should wait for it to hit the budget theaters, or wait for rental.

***1/2 out of *****.
[--- Good ---]by  
Mar 13, 2000
Mission to Mars was interesting and the plot credible (why not, it's sci-fi). Not a "big name" cast, but the effects were good. Would like to see the Return to Mars: Mission II.
Mar 14, 2000
Quite a bad movie for such an interesting idea and such a talented cast.
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Mar 15, 2000
Don't walk, run... away from this movie. During one scene, the backround music is a bad rip-off of 2001. This film is desperately trying to be something it is not. Good. I am a huge effects fan and the effects don't come close to making this one a watchable movie on the big screen.
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Mar 19, 2000
I went into this movie with low expectations: they were not low enough. Holy Schlock! The story and acting were bad beyond belief. This movie was so painful to sit through.

Comparisons have come up in the media with 2001, Contact and Mission to Mars. 2001 is perfect science fiction, and the other two STINK! My brother and I had an argument over which was worse: Contact has less Schlock, but 1 hour longer in length. This movie was far worse.
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Mar 24, 2000
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. There was very little good acting in the movie except for Gary Sinese. The characters didn't show emotion or react to situations. Very little humor and originality. The disaster and rescue in space has been done much better many times before. The music was not suited to the movie. It was very slow in places. Some special effects were okay but can be seen in other movies. Any the meaning of life theory they discovered was bogus. El Stinko!
[--- Good ---]by  
Mar 25, 2000
This movie is very far fetched, but if you like science fiction "which I do" then see it!
[--- See Now! ---]by  
Mar 26, 2000
I have pondered the meaning of life and have found it here...

For years the Evolutionists have tried to make sence of the goings on of this world. Making up stories about everything from The Big Bang theory to how life evolved on our lovely planet...but those darn Creationists kept coming in with their weird ideas. But, behold! Finally an answer for us comes directly from this movie. We were planted here....ahhh, something the Creationists will have a real problem with. Finally proof...first it was the MARS ROCK brought to you by NASA for more funding(later discounted by NASA by the way, but they didn't give back the money)...then Aliens...the answer to everything. Blame it on the aliens....that will fix everything...well...almost.

You must see this...if for no other reason than the graphics...but don't pay full price...save the money to buy some popcorn. You'll need to be doing something while sitting through this drivel.
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Mar 27, 2000
Without a doubt, the worst movie I have ever seen. Good actors used badly, a plot with some serious flaws and wholesale theft of material from other sci-fi movies. What a mess. What a shame. What a waste of money.
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Apr 21, 2000
I just wish I would have given somebody $7.50 at the door and have them kick me in the balls! It would have saved me 2 hours of REAL pain and agony! This movie, although containing several "good" actors, was a real snoozer. The love scenes between the husband and wife made me want to vommit. The SLLLLOOOOWWWW movement throughout the movie almost put me to sleep. The alien graphics had me laughing all the way home.

I liked the idea and the commercials duped me into going to the theater (despite hearing bad reviews) but this movie grossly failed to live up to my expectations.

Bottom line: if you're having trouble sleeping, rent this movie.
[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
May 13, 2000
I should warn you that this movie is very poor dont let the special effects encourage you to see this because almost all the special effects in this movie are in the adverts.

this is how they ripp you off big time because at the end of the movie you will almost certain to say to yourself " what a crappy movie"

This movie is crappy. But the only thing that is good about this movie is that it is unpredictable, this is still not good enough reason to see this though. This just has too much talking and not much excitement or action.

But if you do need to see this then just see it on video or borrow a friends video or dvd because just no point watching a film with no decent surround sound effects.

so just stay away from this even if you are a sci-fi fan.
May 17, 2000
An entertaining movie that is worth seeing on the big screen (Though try to get discount tickets)

Yes, it did have a slight feel of 'Contact' and '2001' about it. The "Thinking mans" Sci-Fi movies?

Now I'm no Sci-Fi purist so I didn't mind that M to M was more exciting and certainly not as slow or confusing as either of these predecessors. However, it did lack something. Maybe it could have been a little longer with a more defined ending, I'm not sure.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
May 19, 2000
Several reviewers have held that this movie is good sci-fi, along the lines
of Contact. Slow moving, but in an intelligent magical way. Well, it isn't.
I had a lot of fun watching the movie, but only because my friends and I enjoy
really bad sci-fi. We get a lot of entertainment value out of mocking it,
in an MST3K style. When we write these reviews we aren't supposed to reveal
too much of the plot, so I'll have to be vague here:

1 - The product placements in this movie are done in a blatant, obvious way that doesn't mesh smoothly. The scene where they used Dr Pepper to save the day was just so...obvious - even making sure the Dr Pepper sloooowwwwllllly drifted right in front of the camera as it made its way across the ship. And the Penzoil sticker on the Mars rover was extra cheesy.

2 - The characters made stupid mistakes that even laymen in the audience
knew were stupid, like not checking the ship for additional holes when a
meteor storm made a few punctures. It made it very hard to believe that
these were the best crewmen NASA could find for the trip.

3 - Their attempts at science were funny - like the *rotating* (rotating,
mind you) DNA model of M&Ms hanging in the weightlessness (where
individual M&Ms "drifted" in circlular patterns, all on their own). Also,
I liked the statement when they looked at a picture of some helix on the
screen and said, "Well, the DNA looks human." Like you can tell by looking
at a glance.

4 - There was an obvious rip-off of 2001 at the end. I won't spoil it by
mentioning what it led to, but let's just say it involved a big, featureless
white room, with a black rectangle in it.

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