Movie Review: Mission to Mars

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O’Connell, and Tim Robbins

Since the first trailers aired, Mission to Mars (M2M for short) has left no doubt that it’s not your ordinary “how would we get to Mars” flick. True, the movie does go to great effort to show us (more or less) how human beings would arrive on Mars and what natural dangers would threaten them. But unlike its unwanted cousin Red Planet (starring Val Kilmer, coming in November 2000), M2M tries to give us both a realistic rocket ride and a E.T.-meets-2001 backdrop.  

M2M is slower-paced than the usual sci-fi action movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We have a chance to get to know the primary characters to some degree (from the astronaut bumped from the original mission due to the death of his wife, to the newly assigned mission commander who must leave his wife and young son for the two-year mission). Soon after the first mission arrives on Mars, they are met with disaster upon discovering that the Face in Cydonia ain’t no hoax.

The bulk of the movie deals with the hastily concocted rescue mission, co-commanded by Tim Robbins and Connie Nielson, with Gary Sinise and Jerry O’Connell along for the ride. The “survive against all odds” action sequences as they approach Mars are suspenseful and well-done, but the movie’s climax is a bit… well, you’ll have to see for yourself. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is ambiguous on the meaning of the Mystery Revealed, M2M pretty much beats you over the head with it.

Rating: B

[Originally posted in March 2000 at]

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