Click here to visit Triviana Two and a half stars

Mission to Mars Spaced out
A great cast heads for the red planet
and ends up well short of "2001"

"Mission to Mars"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

The human nature is to explore, to find out what lies beyond where we have already been; to ask questions and then find answers. We explore without; the world around us, and someday, the worlds beyond our own. We also explore within; who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Hey, it keeps us busy.

Click on me, for the good of the human race"Mission to Mars" looks at that aspect of ourselves. Set in 2020, it posits the first manned mission to the Red Planet. Tragedy dogs the mission even before it leaves; its commander, Jim McConnell (Gary Sinese), withdraws following the death of his wife and co-commander of the mission.

At first, the mission seems fairly routine; to discover the feasability of colonization. However, the new mission commander, Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) discovers an anomaly, one which quickly turns deadly. When it becomes clear to mission control that something has gone wrong at Mars Base, a rescue mission is mounted, led by Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), his wife Terri (Connie Nielsen) and mission specialist Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell). Blake insists that McConnell accompany the team, as he is the one who wrote the mission plan for the original expedition, including a possible rescue situation, and knows more about Mars than any other astronaut.
Click on me, or taste my space dustThe rescue mission also meets with unexpected tragedy after a micrometeorite shower holes the ship. The rescue party has to use all their resourcefulness in order to make it to the planet. There, they find the object of their mission ... and a puzzle for them to solve. It explains why the first mission had to die ... and a whole lot more. Think of this as a junior "2001: A Space Odyssey" with better special effects and a director who is more of a storyteller. That, perhaps, is the biggest problem with M2M; rather than leave the mystery pretty much unsolved, letting the audience come to its own conclusions, as Stanley Kubrick did in "2001," director Brian de Palma makes sure that everything is explained in nice, neat little packages. That takes away from the grandeur of the mystery, and leaves us feeling like Peggy Lee; is that all there is?

Visually, there are some stunning moments, particularly late in the movie during the Martian Head scene, and during a cataclysmic accident. Sinese and Robbins are solid actors who never disappoint; Sinese is particularly excellent, playing an astronaut for the first time since "Apollo 13" and comporting himself as a complex man, switching between mourning his wife and achieving the dream they both shared. Cheadle is an actor whose stock in Hollywood is on the rise; look for him to make some great movies in the near future.

It makes for an odd switch; I'm usually more forgiving of the excesses of sci-fi flicks than Da Queen, but she liked this movie better than I did. That it got a one-hanky recommendation from Da Queen is telling enough; that she found it thought-provoking should be recommendation enough for anyone. For my part, I give it a mild recommendation; certainly, it's worth seeing for the scope of its vision as well as the performances of its solid cast. I also give the writers props for avoiding cliche characterization and action for its own sake.

Still, I've seen "2001," I've enjoyed "2001" (although I didn't love "2001"), but this ain't "2001."

Theater or Video?
See it in the cineplex, by all means.
DVD at
VHS at

See cast, credit and other details about "Mission to Mars" at Internet Movie Data Base.