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As you may know, there were two big budget Mars movies that came out last year. The most well known one probably being ‘Mission to Mars’ starring among others, Tim Robbins. However, it probably wasn’t well known for the right reasons, it was well known for being…well, how should I put it...crap. Although the special effects were another triumph for the Hollywood film industry (with the exception of the awful looking alien at the end!), the script was shoddy, and the acting in places was pretty dire! A few months later, and Red Planet has also landed on DVD, will it exceed its competition? Lets hope so...

"The holes in the plot are...this big...."
Red Planet is set in the not too distant future. The earth is slowly dying as a result of war and pollution, and together the nations unite to find a new hope. A team of scientists have been sent to Mars to try and find out what has happened to Earths attempts at colonisation of the planet, the Oxygen that had been produced on the planets surface by growing Algae has depleted, and noone knows why. Leading the exploration party is Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie Anne Moss) who although surrounded by men, doesn’t hesitate with ordering them around at her disposal. Infact, you could say she has them wrapped around her little finger. Also on board is Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer) the technical specialist on the team, who also has a rather unhealthy attraction towards his commander. Assisting the team in their exploration of Mars is AMEE, a multifunctional robot trained in exploration…and combat. Needless to say, things don’t go too smoothly, and the team crash land on Mars with limited oxygen and supplies. What makes things considerably worse, is during the emergency they are forced to dump AMEE to slow their descent….it comes to light however that AMEE survives the fall, however has developed a rather serious malfunction and begins stalking the crew. From then on in, it becomes a battle of survival…

The film has a strong supporting cast, Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Heat) playing the scientist role, which certainly makes a change from his usual mix of villain and gangster parts. Still, he pulls off the part convincingly, and brings some much needed humour to the film. Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality) is also present, playing the second in command, and the bad guy of the piece.

"Darling...did you forget to feed her?"
Despite the solid cast however, this film still fails to pull off what it’s trying to achieve. For one thing, I really couldn’t care less about what happened to most of the characters throughout the story, as the film features very little character development early on, and in a film that doesn’t exactly overdose on action, this is quite a setback. Adding to this, the script is far too predictable, it’s quite easy to predict whets going to happen ten or fifteen minutes ahead, throughout the movie, which also eradicates the tension of the film. So what do we have, poor character development, and zero tension, not exactly looking too promising is it. Luckily enough, the special effects are top notch, and the action sequences, although not very frequent are quite impressive, if a little over the top! What particularly impressed me, were the CGI effects used on the robot AMEE. Despite the fact that it was generated primarily on computer, the movements and overall realism were second to none, it did actually look as if it was in the ‘real’ world and the actors were interacting with it.

Overall, I would say that this film is worth seeing, if only for the special effects. The film features some good solid acting by all of the cast, particularly by ‘The Matrix’s’ Carrie Anne Moss, though on occasion some of the acting from Tom Sizemore and Benjamin Bratt does seam a little tongue in cheek, which on reflection, is probably quite appropriate! ‘Red Planet’ is a film that could have had a lot of potential if they had of padded out the storyline with more character interaction and humour, however what you get is an ‘average’ film with nice effects but not that much else.

As you would expect from a new Warner Brothers release, you get an anamorphic transfer, and the film is displayed in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. On my setup I did get a strange breakup effect in the background of several scenes, however it ran fine when I tested it on my DVD-Rom on my computer, so I presume it must have been a compatibility problem with my hardware, it wasn’t anything too annoying, but its something I noticed on occasion. The colours throughout the film are very sharp, particularly on the planet of Mars…that’s about the only thing I also appreciated in ‘Mission to Mars’!

I was really quite surprised with the quality of the audio on this release, there’s plenty of bass throughout the movie, particularly during the space sequences. With this release you get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and I was more than happy with it. There were also some nice surround effects during AMEE’s impending attacks on the ground crew.

"We are the borg........." ok, ok wrong film....
The Extra’s on ‘Red Planet’ are extremely disappointing. Perhaps I should rephrase ‘extra’s’ because there’s actually only really 1 other than the usual addition of Cast Profiles. What you get are basically a selection of extended scenes, none of which really add, or change the film in anyway, personally, I got bored after the 4th! Baring in mind that Warner Brothers released this title as a budget title, I may let them off slightly for the lack of extras, however with the growing amount of special edition 2 disk sets, a selection of Deleted Scenes is pretty poor.

Overall, this film is worth seeing, if for nothing but the special effects, its also possible to pickup this DVD very cheaply because of the extreme lack of extras, so it’s got to be worth a try. I definitely preferred this film to Mission to Mars, though that might have something to do with Carrie Anne Moss being in Red Planet!