November 29, 2000
Mission To Mars
After a lovely Saturday with improv, a party in Tiburon, and stuff, I stopped at the Alexandria to see the 10:30 PM showing of Mission To Mars. The reviews were all in the three star category, even if the reviewers had a maximum of 3, 4, 5, or 10 stars. Most critics faulted the plot as being too cheesy--a word that is used all over the place, but whose definition escapes me and can be best described as a phrase GenXers use to say, "I'm in my twenties and I don't like this." The story is of astronauts venturing to Mars only to discover a message from the planet's previous tenants regarding the beginning of their extinction and Earth's beginning of its evolution.
The compelling reason to see this movie was that it registered high on the eye-candy scale with nearly all the reviewers. The sets were elaborately done, the science was painstakingly accurate, and the essential fault of the movie was that the moral was, well, too sentimental. This said to me, sit back, eat popcorn, suck on a soda, and turn the brain off. Essentially enjoy.
One of my students had handed in his math binder with a drawing he made of a high rise building populated by stick figures, with one on the roof shooting at the stick figures below, and another forcing a female stick figure to perform oral sex. "Eat me, bitch" said the stick figure. I confiscated the drawing because in this age we have to do stuff like that. "It's not like I'm going to go out and kill anyone." said the kid. "I know, Danny White, but I need to refer this to administration; you did hand it in as formal math work after all, right?" Anyway, the drawing is now with the school psychiatrist.
Mission To Mars was more compelling than this kid's drawing, but not by much. The joy of Mission To Mars is to think that some reviewers actually found anything to praise in the movie. I had a sense that the chief scriptwriter was a 7 year-old kid locked up in his room with a space rocket and a tape recorder for ten days. The highlight of the movie was the escape from the doomed lander as it headed wildly toward a flaming entry into the Martian atmosphere, seeing the astronauts file out in a weightless conga line, only to turn their heads to watch the craft disappear far below into a flaming meteorite.
I wish to describe the tension in the movie theater during this drama. A twelve year old in the middle of this 45 minute segment of the conga line finally shouted out, "Boooo! This is bullshit." No one laughed or clapped. Everyone just adjusted in their seats and slurped whatever remained of their sodas. I would like to say more about the plot without giving away the ending, but there's not much to say except, "And then lots of stuff happens on Mars."
By all means go see this movie. It has lots of scenes of actors moving in slow motion against painted backdrops of space and Martian hills. Yes, you can see that they are about five feet from the landscape hanging in a sound stage, including the dimples in the matte paper they used. The special effects were vintage 1950s, the acting is as good as film gets today, and the storyline is really a great example of child fantasy, not unlike that Star Wars or 2001 crap written by adults.
This movie is five Malto Meals with brown sugar.Posted by mrbdawg