Mission to Mars
Mission to Mars is a 2000 American science fiction adventure film directed by Brian De Palma from an original screenplay written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Graham Yost. The film was based, in part, on the defunct Mission to Mars attraction at Disney theme parks. In 2020, the first manned Mars exploration mission goes awry. American astronaut Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise) coordinates a rescue mission for a colleague. Principal support actors were Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, and Kim Delaney.
|Mission to Mars|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Tom Jacobson|
|Screenplay by||Jim Thomas|
|Story by||Lowell Cannon|
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$111 million|
In 2020, the Mars I mission to planet Mars, is commanded by Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) with fellow astronauts Nicholas Willis (Kavan Smith), Sergei Kirov (Peter Outerbridge), and Renée Coté (Jill Teed). Upon arrival, the team discovers a crystalline formation in the Cydonia region, which they suspect is an extrusion from a subsurface geothermal column of water, useful to future human colonization. After reporting this to the International Space Station, they go to investigate the formation and hear a strange sound on their communications system, which they assume to be interference from their planetary rover. When they scan the formation with radar, a large vortex kills everyone except Luke. After the vortex subsides, the formation is revealed to be part of a large humanoid face.
The orbiting Earth Space Station receives Luke's distress message, and readies a ship for a rescue mission—the Mars II containing Commander Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), his wife Terri Fisher (Connie Nielsen) Co-Commander Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise) and technician Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell). As the ship enters Mars orbit, micrometeoroids breach the hull. During repair, the external fuel tanks are overlooked, causing a leak and later explosion when the now-frozen fuel drifts into position behind the rockets just as they are fired. The crew abandon ship to get to the REMO ("Resupply Module") orbiting Mars. Tethered to the others, Woody launches himself at the module, but although he attaches a line to get the others to the module, he is unable to properly land on it. Terri tries to rescue Woody, but knowing that she would run out of fuel before reaching him, Woody removes his helmet, killing himself to save her.
When the survivors arrive on the surface of Mars, they find Luke living on the produce of a greenhouse, whereupon he reveals the crystalline face structure to them, and that the sound on the communications system comes from the structure and represents an XYZ coordinates map of human-like DNA, but missing a pair of chromosomes. Jim determines they must complete the sequence to pass a test, and the crew dispatches a robotic rover to reproduce the completed signal. Following the transmission, an opening appears in the side of the structure, which Jim, Terri, and Luke enter, while Phil remains at the repaired Earth return vehicle with orders to launch, with or without them, at the agreed time.
The opening seals behind them, disrupting radio communication with Phil, and a three-dimensional projection of the solar system depicts the planet Mars, covered with water, being struck by a large asteroid and rendered uninhabitable. A recreation of a Martian then reveals that the natives of Mars evacuated their world in spacecraft, one in which they put DNA and sent to Earth to create the planet's lifeforms and human beings, who could one day land on Mars and be recognized as descendants. An invitation is offered for one astronaut to follow the Martians to their new home. Jim accepts the invitation, bidding farewell to Terri and Luke, and while they return to Phil and subsequently to Earth, he is taken into an oxygenated capsule in a small ship that is launched out of the self-destructing structure past the three astronauts leaving Mars, who watch it fly toward the Martians' home.
- Gary Sinise as Jim McConnell
- Tim Robbins as Woody Blake
- Don Cheadle as Luke Graham
- Connie Nielsen as Terri Fisher
- Jerry O'Connell as Phil Ohlmyer
- Kim Delaney as Maggie McConnell
- Peter Outerbridge as Sergei Kirov
- Kavan Smith as Nicholas Willis
- Jill Teed as Renée Coté
- Elise Neal as Debra Graham
- Robert Bailey Jr. as Bobby Graham
- Taylor Jones as Daniel Lederman
- Armin Mueller-Stahl as Ramier Beck
- Bill Timoney as Computer (voice)
The film was shot primarily on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jordan, and the Canary Islands. Extensive special effects surrounding certain aspects of the film such as the NASA spacecraft and Martian vortex, were created by a number of digital effects companies including ILM, Dream Quest Images, Tippett Studio, CIS Hollywood, and Trans FX. Between visuals, miniatures, and animation, over 400 technicians were directly involved in the production aspects of the special effects.
According to the director in the 2016 documentary film about his career as a film director, De Palma was brought on board after the previous director walked away due to concerns over the lack of additional money for the budget. De Palma indicated that the film needed additional funds and that much of the budget went into the CGI for the film. When De Palma was hired the script had already been written and the film cast.
The original score for Mission to Mars, was released by the Hollywood Records music label on March 14, 2000. The score for the film was composed by Ennio Morricone and performed by the New York Philharmonic, while songs written by musical artists Van Halen and Buckwheat Zydeco, were used in-between dialogue shots in the film. Suzana Peric and Nick Meyers edited the film's music.
|Mission to Mars: Original Score|
|Film score by|
The film, produced by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures in North America, and Spyglass Entertainment in selected European territories. Mission to Mars explores astronomy, extraterrestrial life, and space exploration. Despite the fact that the film employed the use of numerous extensive special effects, it failed to garner any award nominations from mainstream motion picture organizations for its production merits. On March 14, 2000, the original film score was released by the Hollywood Records label. It was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Italian musician Ennio Morricone.
The widescreen DVD edition of the film featuring audio commentary along with a visual effects analysis among other highlights was released in the United States on June 4, 2002.
Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mainly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of 110 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 4.1/10 and the consensus, "Beauty only goes skin deep in this shallow but visually stunning film." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 34 based on 36 reviews. Furthermore, the film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Brian De Palma in the category of 'Worst Director', where he lost to Roger Christian for Battlefield Earth.
The film's reception among French-language critics was markedly different in positive fashion. Film journal Cahiers du cinéma devoted several articles to De Palma and Mission to Mars at the time of its release, and placed it as #4 in their list of the 10 best films of 2000. The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
Sinise and Robbins, a couple of awfully good actors, are asked to speak some awfully clunky lines. When Robbins says, "OK, we're ready to light this candle" before ignition, it sounds like a parody of astronaut lingo.
—Bob Graham, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
Mark Halverson, writing in Sacramento News & Review, said "My inner child felt cheated that the film leapt from an astronaut barbecue to Mars without so much as a rocket launch and that the best special effect (a sandstorm nod to The Mummy) was unveiled in the first 20 minutes." He added, "This visually alluring mess also includes gobs of cheesy dialogue and a hokey-looking alien." Left unimpressed, Bob Graham in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that the film "meanders into space-mystico mumbo jumbo. We're supposed to share the characters' awe at the wonder of the universe, but more likely the audience will wonder whatever were the filmmakers thinking." Graham characterized Mission to Mars as "a very mixed bag: rhapsodic cinematography, several genuine shocks amid a suffocating air of gooeyness, impressive visual effects – even if some seem to exist in a vacuum – and an absolutely loony conclusion." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, said the film "contains conversations that drag on beyond all reason. It is quiet when quiet is not called for. It contains actions that deny common sense. And for long stretches the characters speak nothing but boilerplate". He believed that "It misses too many of its marks. But it has extraordinary things in it. It's as if the director, the gifted Brian De Palma, rises to the occasions but the screenplay gives him nothing much to do in between them." The film however, was not without its supporters. Michael Wilmington of the NY Daily News, exclaimed the film was "One of the most gorgeous science-fiction movies ever - and probably also one of the most realistic in detail and scientific extrapolation". Richard Corliss of TIME commented that "This isn't 2001, by a long shot, but for 2000, it'll do nicely". William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, added to the positive sentiment by saying "Here and there an inspired shot makes the film come alive, and at least three of its sequences had me positioned well on the edge of my seat."
Writing for The Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov noted that the "Mission to Mars falls prey to an overwhelming sense of a man trying to please everyone all the time." He went further, that "De Palma has reached out to embrace a larger audience and seemingly sacrificed those traits that drew us to him in the first place: his singular vision, his clinical stylistics, and the palpable sense of dread that his best films engender." In a mixed review, James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film "Ineptly directed, badly acted, and scripted with an eye towards stupidity and incoherence, the film is worthwhile only to those who are in desperate need of a nap. And, as is often the case when a big budget, high profile motion picture self-destructs, this one does so in spectacular fashion." Describing a mixed opinion, J. Hoberman of The Village Voice said the film encompassed "a touchy-feely esprit that's predicated on equal parts Buck Rogers bravado and backyard barbecue, the whole burnt burger drenched in Ennio Morricone's elegiac western-style score".
Unfortunately, the filmmakers' imagination flags in the closing sequences; the movie's final reel looks like a high-tech museum exhibit entitled '"2001: A Space Odyssey" for Dummies'.
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times, stated that the "visual design is spectacular, and the scenes on the Martian surface look so real that the picture could have been made on location. A holographic sequence detailing the evolutionary link between Earth and Mars is staggeringly well staged." However, he ultimately came to the conclusion that there wasn't "an original moment in the entire movie, and the score is so repetitive that it could have been downloaded directly from EnnioMorricone.com." Similarly, Todd McCarthy wrote in Variety that the film's "dramatic package that it arrives in is so flimsy, unconvincing and poorly wrought that it's impossible to be swept away by the illustrated version of creationism on offer." He did note "Pictorially, the film is smooth and pristine looking. De Palma and his frequent cinematographer Stephen H. Burum go for their patented swooping and twisting camera moves whenever possible, and there are some very nice ones onboard the recovery ship." Lisa Schwarzbaum writing for Entertainment Weekly deduced that "Mission to Mars wants us to think about lofty things: the bravery of explorers, the ingenuity of our nation's space program, the humility required to comprehend the possibility that we earthlings are not the be-all and end-all of creation. But De Palma's film is too embarrassed, too jittery and self-conscious to hush up and pay attention."
The film premiered in cinemas on March 10, 2000 in wide release throughout the U.S. During its opening weekend, the film opened in first place grossing $22,855,247 in business showing at 3,054 locations. The film The Ninth Gate came in second place during that weekend grossing $6,622,518. The film's revenue dropped by 50% in its second week of release, earning $11,385,709. For that particular weekend, the film fell to second place screening in 3,060 theaters. Erin Brockovich unseated Mission to Mars to open in first place grossing $28,138,465 in box office revenue. During its final weekend in release, it opened in a distant 72nd place with $17,467 in revenue. The film went on to top out domestically at $60,883,407 in total ticket sales through an 18-week theatrical run. The film took in an additional $50,100,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $110,983,407 in gross revenue. The film ranked 41st at the box office for 2000.
Following its cinematic release in theaters, the film was released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in VHS video format on September 12, 2000. The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on September 12, 2000. Special features for the DVD include; Audio Commentary Animatics to Scene Comparison, Documentary "Visions of Mars", Visual Effects Analysis Production, Art Gallery, and DVD-ROM Features. Currently, there is a French version of the film in Blu-ray Disc format, and is available in other media formats such as Video on demand.
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