Red Planet (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Antony Hoffman|
|Produced by||Bruce Berman
|Written by||Chuck Pfarrer
|Music by||Graeme Revell|
|Editing by||Robert K. Lambert
|Studio||Village Roadshow Pictures|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||106 minutes|
Red Planet is a 2000 science fiction film directed by Antony Hoffman, starring Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss and Tom Sizemore. Released on November 10, 2000, it was a critical and commercial failure. The film was Hoffman's film directing debut, who previously directed television commercials. He has not worked on a film since.
In 2056 AD, Earth is in ecologic crisis as a consequence of pollution and overpopulation. Automated interplanetary missions have been seeding Mars with atmosphere-producing algae as the first stage of terraforming the planet. When the oxygen quantity produced by the algae is inexplicably reduced, the crew of Mars-1 investigate; a crew consisting of Quinn Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), an agnostic geneticist, Bud Chantillas (Terence Stamp), an aging philosophical scientist and surgeon, systems engineer Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer), commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss), pilot Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt), and terraforming scientist Chip Pettengill (Simon Baker).
When Mars 1 is damaged in arrival, Bowman remains aboard for repair while the others land to locate an automated habitat established earlier to manufacture food and oxygen. During insertion, the team's landing craft is damaged and crash-lands off-course. In the aftermath, "AMEE" (Autonomous Mapping Exploration and Evasion), a military robot programmed to guide them, is lost, and Chantillas suffers a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding, and tells the others to leave him behind. Santen refuses, but Chantillas tells them that they only have eight hours of oxygen left to make it to HAB 1. Chantillas tells Gallagher that it's all right, as he got to see Mars for the first time, and the others leave to allow Chantillas to die in peace. In orbit around Mars, Bowman contacts Earth, which informs her that Mars-1 is in decaying orbit, but offers hope of restoring engine function in exiting Mars.
On Mars, the landing party find the automated habitat mysteriously destroyed. They are baffled for an explanation, given that the module was designed to withstand any damaging storms on Mars, and was field tested in Tornado Alley. All expect their imminent deaths by suffocation. Pettengill and Santen wander from the others to explore, later to reach a canyon where Santen is accidentally killed by Pettengill, after they get into a fight over whether or not the mission was a failure, and that Pettengill realizes that Santen would never accept defeat. Pettengill returns to Burchenal and Gallagher, and tells them that Santen killed himself. His oxygen depleted, Gallagher opens his helmet, choosing a quick death over asphyxiation - and discovers that Mars' atmosphere is thin but breathable.
The only salvageable material from the habitat is all of the liquid fuel, which has ruptured out of its containers but pooled under the wreck. With no remaining power in their suits, the astronauts set it on fire with a flare so they can have a bonfire to survive the massive temperature drop of the Martian night. AMEE reunites with the crew, and the three astronauts notice the robot is damaged and attempt to shut it down so they can recover its guidance device. Perceiving their actions as a threat, AMEE breaks Burchenal's ribs and pursues the others before retreating. Gallagher tells the others she has gone into military mode, and intends to kill them all one by one. She wounded Burchenal instead of killing him because she has been programmed with knowledge of the old guerrilla tactic that a wounded man will slow the enemy down more than a dead one, because a dead teammate can be abandoned but effort has to be expended to transport a wounded teammate.
Eventually, Gallagher builds a makeshift radio from parts of the Mars Rover 'Pathfinder', through which Bowman instructs them to use a Russian probe's sample-return system to launch themselves into orbit. During the trip, Bowman tells Gallagher that the probe can hold only two people. The trio takes shelter from an ice storm inside of a cave. Devastated by the recent news and afraid of being left behind, Pettengill flees with the radio, only to be killed by AMEE.
After the storm subsides Gallagher and Burchenal recover the radio from Pettingill's corpse, and discover that it has become infested by insect-like native Martian life (identified by Burchenal as "nematodes"). The insects are highly flammable, as using a simple cutting torch on Pettengill's corpse to free his grip caused a chain reaction, making all of the insects in his corpse explode like firecrackers. Later, the two encounter a field of algae being eaten by the insects, and Burchenal pieces together what happened.
The Martian insects had lain dormant on their almost dead world, but when the probes from Earth spread algae fields across Mars it gave them a massive new food source and led to a population explosion. The Martian insects are what caused the algae to disappear, but in the process they actually gave Mars breathable oxygen levels, because they produce oxygen as a waste product (explaining why they are so flammable). The insects are also what destroyed the habitat module, as they tore in to get to the food supplies inside.
Burchenal explains to Gallagher that the biochemistry of alien insects' respiratory metabolism is capable of producing oxygen far more efficiently than human science is currently able to. Studying the insects' biochemistry is the key to terraforming Mars, and may even lead to discoveries which will allow Earth's polluted atmosphere to be repaired. However, Burchenal is attacked by swarms of the insects when blood drips from an open wound. Rather than be eaten alive, he passes his sample vial of insects to Gallagher before immolating himself and his attackers.
Gallagher reaches the Russian probe, finds sufficient fuel to power the rocket's engine, but not enough electrical power to launch the probe, and realizes that the only available replacement is AMEE's power core. In a final confrontation, Gallagher is able to lure AMEE into a trap and disable her using one of the probe's sample launchers, then takes her battery. Gallagher launches himself in the probe's sample-return capsule and reaches orbit where Mars-1 is waiting for him, and he is recovered and revived by Bowman.
Gallagher becomes upset that four astronauts died so that he may live, but Bowman tells him that they didn't die for nothing. The computer is busy analyzing the sample of Martian insects which Gallagher brought back, and research on them may lead to repairing Earth itself. With a six month long trip back to Earth, the computer has plenty of time to analyze the insects, and Bowman and Gallagher have time to start pursuing a romantic relationship.
- Val Kilmer as Robby Gallagher
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Cmdr. Kate Bowman
- Tom Sizemore as Dr. Quinn Burchenal
- Benjamin Bratt as Lt. Ted Santen
- Simon Baker as Chip Pettengill
- Terence Stamp as Dr. Bud Chantilas
- Neil Ross as Space Suit (voice) (uncredited)
Red Planet opened at #5 at the North American box office making $8.7 million USD in its opening weekend. The film was a box office bomb, grossing $33 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $80 million.
The film received negative reviews, with only a 14% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 100 reviews. Stephen Holden's review in the New York Times was almost entirely negative, calling the film "a leaden, skimpily plotted space-age Outward Bound adventure with vague allegorical aspirations that remain entirely unrealized."
During a conversation between Burchenal and Gallagher, Burchenal mistakenly lists the 4 letters of genetic code as A, G, T, and P. The correct letters are A, G, T, and C. Burchenal also calls the Martian insects "nematodes", which are microscopic unsegmented worms rather than the beetle-like omnivorous insects of the film.
Due to significant scientific inaccuracies, NASA refused to serve as a scientific adviser for the film. "The science was just so off the wall that eventually we felt, 'You guys go ahead and make your movie.' If there's something that's going to be so misleading to the public that we don't want to participate, then we'll say no," said Bert Ulrich, a NASA spokesperson, adding: "The big thing is, we want to make sure we're not misleading the public completely."
- Red Planet (2000)
- Rotten Tomatoes.com page for Red Planet
- "Red Planet: Finding the Terra Not So Firma on Mars," Stephen Holden, New York Times, 10 November 2000
- http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/red_planet.pdf | pg. 56
- Rebecca Keegan (1 September 2011). "NASA reaches its outer limit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2011.