Earth has become overpopulated. Mankind can no longer control its pollution problems. So it’s Mars or bust! After vainly attempting to create an artificial, breathable atmosphere on the red planet using unmanned shuttles and probes, six astronauts are sent to determine what the problems are and resolve them. Their six-month journey from a space dock orbiting earth to the outskirts of Mars goes off without a hitch. But the very second they begin orbiting what they hope will soon be mankind’s new home, a shower of deadly solar flares engulfs their ship. The damage is immense, forcing the “away team” to abandon their captain, Kate Bowman, onboard the now-burning vessel. She may be the lucky one, however, as their landing pod is in for a bumpy landing on Mars’ rocky, desert-like surface. The dust settles with one man down, four to go. But they only have about seven hours of oxygen. A disastrous fistfight (brought on by sharp dissention in the ranks) lowers the tally to three. A destroyed habitat, a rogue robot programmed to kill, ferocious man-eating insects and treacherous environmental conditions all stand in the way of success. But this is remote-control sci-fi action, so never fear, Gallagher is here. He’s the team’s mechanical engineer and operational backbone. Just watch, he’ll save the day!
positive elements: Teamwork is a theme that runs through the whole movie. At times, though, it’s a bit forced, grudging and … futile. Still, the basic idea is there. Bowman diligently tries to repair her damaged ship so she can rescue her crew and get them safely back to earth. On the ground, one man sacrifices his life for his comrades and, ultimately, the future of all mankind.
spiritual content: While trying to figure out what went wrong with the artificial atmosphere on Mars, crew members ponder whether the failure was caused by a scientific mishap or divine intervention. It is eventually discovered that a bizarre species of insects were responsible for the atmospheric problems, prompting one scientist to exclaim that he knew God wasn’t ever involved. One scientist tells Gallagher that, “Science couldn’t answer my questions so I turned to philosophy and I’ve been searching for God ever since.”
sexual content: One sensuous scene shows Bowman through a slightly fogged glass shower door. She walks out of the shower naked, giving theater audiences a glimpse of her bare side. Gallagher, however stands directly in front of her, obviously loath to look away. She downplays her nudity, telling him that he needs to get used to it in their cramped quarters, suggesting he think of her as his sister. He quips that she doesn’t look anything like his sister. Eschewing her military uniform, Bowman frequently wears tight, form-fitting tops. A crewman cracks jokes about lesbian sex and his rapid accumulation of ex-wives.
violent content: Big explosions and even touches of blood and gore. AMEE, the robot that has “gone Mustang,” attacks the men on the surface. A few gritty scenes are shown through “her” eyes. Bowman battles intense zero-gravity fires. Far below, a fistfight results in death as one man pushes another off a tall cliff. The insects attack two of the crewmembers. One close-up shot shows one writhing creature burrowing in a man’s face. Another shows the bugs exploding out of a body in a shower of sparks. Running out of oxygen, men suffer from asphyxiation.
crude or profane language: Just under a dozen s-words, coupled with mild profanities and inappropriate references to God. Then, in a climactic scene, Bowman screams the f-word and makes an obscene gesture.
drug and alcohol content: Two of the crewmembers rig a distillery on the ship. Everyone gets together and drinks the concocted moonshine, getting pretty much sloshed.
other negative elements: The guys in the ground crew make a big show out of being the first humans to urinate on Mars.
conclusion: Even though isolated scenes in Red Planet toy with the idea that God “might” have the power to work wonders, the script turns around to discredit Him by consistently placing science above Him. Not that intellectual conversations get much space here. Clever scripting is clearly not what this movie is all about. Computer graphics vainly try to bolster its paint-by-numbers plot, but the filmmakers didn’t even bother to follow well-established sci-fi rules. (Note to the producers: There is no “up” in space.) Red Planet never makes it off the launch pad—morally or artistically.