An exploration to the 4th rock from the sun soon hits trouble.
Mars would appear to be Hollywood's interplanetary destination of choice this year, with both this and the Val Kilmer starrer Red Planet blasting off in its direction later in the summer. One can only hope that the Kilmer mission is a good deal more successful than this, otherwise Hollywood would do well to avoid the 4th rock from the Sun for a good long while yet. For here we have the worst film of the year so far.
Essentially starting out as a kind of fictionalised Apollo 13 (the movie even opens with a weirdly 1960s stylised barbecue as goodbyes are said before blast-off), Mission To Mars transforms into a hokey meet-the-ethereal-aliens gig two thirds of the way through. The problem is that while it should have delivered big time (Brian De Palma does space!), it manages to fail on every conceivable level. The quality cast - Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle - are left to wade through dialogue that positively reeks of mature gorgonzola ("Let's light this candle!" whoops Robbins - apparently this is astronaut speak for let's start the engines); while the plot delivers fewer surprises than a below par episode of A Country Practice.
And when the Abyss-like ending does finally arrive, it's not the horrific disappointment that it could be simply because the rest of the film has been dreck all along.
An extended sequence in which the ship is bombarded with mini-meteorites, delivered without musical or editing flourishes, is certainly technically impressive and quite probably very realistic. But it has the unfortunate effect of rendering ditchwater perilously exciting. The FX are run of the mill (and feature the now irritatingly prevalent "CGI duststorm"), while the only spark of hope, Jerry O'Connell's (Scream 2 or the porky prepubescent from Stand By Me if you prefer) occasional attempts at endearing boyish heroics get utterly lost in the scarlet-hued mess.
With a script this awful, even De Palma's sporadic bursts of pyrotechnics can't light up the screen.