Having just read a trilogy of rich, detailed science fiction novels about the colonization of Mars, I went to Red Planet with some trepidation. Could they have possibly handled the idea of a human trip to Mars as well as did Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the Red Mars trilogy)? No.
In fact, I lowered my expectations for Red Planet, knowing that it wouldn’t be a very good science fiction film. What I had hoped for, however, was that it would make a good horror film, like Pitch Black. The previews emphasized the threat of a robotic dog gone haywire, so it was a distinct possibility. But alas, Red Planet is a forgettable disappointment. The robotic dog is a minor conflict, seemingly added to spice up this film that takes place on Mars, for goshsakes! You’d think the first journey to another planet might, in itself, inspire a sense of interest or awe, but it doesn’t, not in this film.
PG-13 for violence, language
The only fun in Red Planet is trying to spot the reflections of the camera and crew in the smoothly-polished faceplates of the astronauts.
(Note to Richard: the science in Red Planet is done badly — for example, the characters call attention to the “light gravity” as they urinate, then they walk off in a perfect earth-gravity gait. Then there’s the “low pressure” Martian storm system that measures 870 millibars — low for earth, but unattainably high on a planet with 1/3 the gravity. Finally, Mars is presented as being hot, one of those misconceptions probably based on association of the color red with heat. Oh well.)