Having destroyed the first one, manking must find a new home. Their search leads to Mars where they find more than they bargained for.
This is the tagline: Not a sound, Not a warning, Not a chance, Not alone. This is the reality: Not anything new, Not much of a script, Not well acted, Not very good.
But it's easy to mock. This, after all, was a summer blockbuster released at the wrong time. Had it arrived amid the 'Perfect Storms' and 'M:I-2's, chances are it would have faired better. Sadly, it didn't. Sadly, it arrived in a month of squeezed-in Oscar hopefuls which show it up for what it is: universally mediocre.
Moss is fine as the ice-maiden captain, reluctantly falling for the Iceman himself (Kilmer) - here playing a "space janitor" with a bad attitude - and Sizemore, as always, is eminently watchable. The remainder of the cast, however, are uniformly forgettable, with the possible exception of Stamp, whose nauseous philosophising will stick in the throat for an eternity.
If the plot is merely a cut and paste job of classic sci-fi staples (mad robots, parasitic space insects, ructions amongst the crew and neat gadgets), it does trump Brian De Palma's would-be rival, 'Mission To Mars', in avoiding the metaphysical claptrap and possessing a more timely raison d'etre: with Earth rapidly running out of a sustainable atmosphere (damn you, CFCs!), mankind must find a new home.
That said, we are treated to a script of quite startling ineptitude ("This baby would have stood up to an F5 in tornado alley!" and "I still can't figure out this oxygen and algae business!" are particular favourites). Occasional mistily-framed flashbacks, too, while intended to bring a tear to the eye, instead result in uncontrolled laughter.
Director Hoffman, though, is not without promise, making good use of his location's rocky terrain, and employing fad-of-the-moment film bleaching techniques to create a stark feel. A pity, then, that he fails to establish any real tension - each death strangely suspense-free - for a hollow final reel.
Universally mediocre and uniformly unforgettable, the only saving grace being the promise of director, Hoffman. Better luck next time.