Picks and Pans Review: Red Planet
Partway through this long-shelved movie (to put distance between it and last winter's similarly themed Mission to Mars, according to the studio) a disembodied female voice that monitors the spaceship's equipment announces that there has been a "failure to engage." She may mean that the vehicle's engines aren't revving, but she could just as accurately be speaking of this tiresome sci-fi thriller's effect on its audience.
It's 2050 and the six astronauts in Red Planet have embarked on the first manned mission to Mars. Five of them—all the men (Kilmer, Sizemore, Bratt, Baker and Terence Stamp)—end up stranded on its dusty surface. Anyone who has ever seen a marooned-in-space movie knows what happens next: Crew members fight among themselves, encounter temperamental alternate life-forms and try to overcome equipment failure. Meanwhile their female commander (Moss) remains high overhead trying to get her incapacitated mother ship moving again so she can rescue her guys. (Being boss doesn't preclude Moss's character from stripping down for a gratuitous shower scene and modeling the teeniest of camisoles, essential gear for gals in space ever since Sigourney Weaver wore a tank top in 1979's Alien.)
The movie's dialogue is as barren as Mars's terrain, and its attempts to reach for spiritual truths are embarrassing. Director Antony Hoffman, who previously made TV ads, allows his cast to carry on as if each were engaged in an individual acting exercise. Kilmer opts for Joe Cool mode, Moss for a variation on Weaver's tough-but-caring Ripley, Sizemore for bluster as the excessively colorful supporting guy, and Bratt, well, let's just say he doesn't register much either way. The movie's saving grace is a nifty rogue robot that, when angry, morphs into a hulking metal version of martial arts Star Jet Li. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Red alert