Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ghosts of Mars

2.5/4

Starring: Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone, Rosemary Forsyth, Liam Waite

Rated R for Strong Violence/Gore, Language and Some Drug Content

I could essentially say the same thing about "Ghosts of Mars" that I said about "Vampires: Los Muertos" a few days ago: not awful, but not very good either.  Interestingly, John Carpenter is involved in both films.  He directed the predecessor of that vampire flick (and served as executive producer on it) and directed this flick.  Carpenter will forever be known for "Halloween," "The Thing" and nothing else.  Efforts like these explain why he's really more of a one-trick pony than a truly gifted filmmaker.

In 2176, Mars is in the process of being terraformed by mankind.  Five cops, tough-as-nails Melanie Ballard (Henstridge), equally tough lesbian commander Helena Braddock, pervy transfer Jericho Butler (Statham) and rookies Bashira Kincaid (Duvall) and Michael Descanso (Waite) have been sent to a remote mining encampment to bring notorious criminal James "Desolation" Williams back for trial on murder charges.  Desolation claims innocence, and of course, he's right.  The entire town has been possessed by a red mist that makes them go mad and bloodthirsty.  Now the cops, the criminals and a few stragglers must team up if any of them want to stay alive.

Believe it or not, this isn't the first time I've seen this movie.  I saw it during college, and looking back on it, I apparently hated it a lot more than I remember.  Either I've grown to appreciate a decent B-movie every now and then or I simply had lower expectations, I found "Ghosts of Mars" nowhere near as bad as I remember.  I don't recommend the film, but it's far from painful.

Based on the evidence, no one here can act.  Natasha Henstridge is certainly stunning to look at, but her acting talents are on the limited side, and she's miscast as the Ellen Ripley clone.  She's rarely convincing.  Ice Cube looks bored (he said as much in a 2006 interview, calling it the worst movie he's ever done).  Still, his charisma shines through all the cheese.  Jason Statham's English accent is so thick that it's hard to understand anything he says.  Clea Duvall is annoying and Pam Grier shows little of the talent that she supposedly showed in "Jackie Brown."

John Carpenter has a movie that's loud, dumb and violent.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Movies like that have their places, and I've enjoyed more than a few of them ("Dawn of the Dead" and "Shoot 'Em Up" are two examples that come to mind).  The difference is that those movies were better constructed than this one.  The scripts were stronger, the special effects and fight sequences were more convincing, and the cast actors that had passed drama school.

This is strictly late-night cable fare.  It has that almost hypnotic quality that you find when watching a dumb movie at 3 am.  Any other time of day you'd give it a pass.

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