Friday, November 21, 2008

Film Review: MISSION TO MARS (2000, Brian de Palma)

Stars: 1 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Kim Delaney, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Jim & John Thomas (the writers of PREDATOR, PREDATOR 2, and...WILD WILD WEST; MISSION TO MARS effectively buried their careers for good), Ennio Morricone.
Tag-line: "Let there be life."
Best one-liner(s): "The genetic difference between men and apes is only three percent. But that three percent gave us Einstein, Mozart-" "...Jack The Ripper."
Hip, shortened, promotional abbreviation: M2M. "Hey, man, remember that summer ID4 came out? That was a good one." "Yeah, but it couldn't compare to the spring M2M came out, or even the summer of M:I-2. But it was definitely better than the winter of AVP2."

A 1999 letter retrieved from the Buena Vista department of records:

Dear Mr. De Palma,

We're pleased to say that we're greenlighting your picture, giving you a budget of 90 million, and packing it with A-list stars. We strongly believe that there is a market for a new 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY updated with a little APOLLO 13 flavor and sprinkled with a touch of SPACECAMP. I also must say that I agree with your comments about the ending. I concur that we should show the alien as much as possible.

This was the biggest flaw in 2001. We didn't get to see any aliens. But we can't blame Kubrick too much, he didn't really have access to all of this wondrous CGI.

Also regarding the ending: though the script specifies that the creation of life on Earth and subsequent fast-forwarded evolution sequence should be shown visually, we both know that that would be a mistake. We should have the astronauts narrating it, and explaining everything that is shown. This will be majestically beautiful, and I doubt there will be a dry eye in the house. If there still is, we should have the astronaut hold hands with the alien and that will take care of even the staunchest, most resolute, and emotionally barricaded viewers.

I think it's safe to say that it will be child's play to make this better than Kubrick's frankly outdated 2001. If all else fails, keep showing the alien. I have faith in our CGI and your masterful directorial faculties.

Buena Vista/Touchstone Pictures

-Sean Gill


Mike B. said...

While all of your points are valid, I respectfully submit that there is indeed a way to make a version of "2001" that explains everything and yet remains fun and watchable. It's just that this film isn't it (although it gets effort points for the Tim Robbins "Dance the Night Away" sequence and the part where he's apparently turned to stone like people do in space). Peter Hyams' "2010," however, is the right way to do it. Scheider, Lithgow, Balaban, awesome cold war dynamics, one of those giant fields of satellite dishes! Sign me up!

Sean Gill said...

I need to see 2010 again. I forgot who the cast even was– Scheider and Lithgow are two of my favorites now, and they even appeared together briefly in ALL THAT JAZZ. I caught 2010 on VHS in middle school, I think, shortly after first discovering 2001, and do recall enjoying it, but all I really remember is flashing panels and lots of dialogue- ha! Definitely due for a revisit.