Sci-Fi December: Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts of Mars illustration by Jeff Schwartzbauer

Ghosts of Mars – 2001

Dir: John Carpenter | Starring: Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Pam Grier

Year: 2176

Review: Having just read through the entire list of films released in the year 2001 I feel fairly confident in saying that Ghosts of Mars is the single dumbest movie released that year. There is a few contenders from other genres but the competition is very slim. The plot is that a group of human Police stationed on Mars are to take a train to a mining town in order to pick up a wanted felon. When they arrive they find a brutal massacre has taken place and that some sort of virus is drifting around in the wind and when inhaled it turns the person in a violent maniac whose priorities are murder and dressing up like Marilyn Manson as soon as they are infected. The police (Natashia Henstridge, Jason Statham) and wanted felon named ‘Desolation’ (Ice Cube) join up to battle their way out and return to the city where they came from – but not without a fight from ‘Big Daddy Mars’ and his band of dopes! The main villain in this film is a hilarious doofus. Imagine if the Ultimate Warrior was dipped in white paint, given the voice of the nerdiest twerp from high school, insert prosthetic teeth too big for his mouth, and have every line he speaks be shouted baby talk. His introduction is guaranteed laughs and every time he speaks you will wonder how his voice wasn’t lowered a few octaves in the editing room – its really embarrassing. Its almost as funny as the final minute of the movie, which should be shown to film students as the example of how not to do “cool”. The examples of poor acting decisions (Ice Cubes grimaces), lame character development (Henstridge’s and Statham’s sexual tension), and laughable slow-mo action/gore just pile up as the movie goes along. The fact this all takes place on mars is useless and provides no real necessity or interesting variables – hell, they just have to put on paint ball goggles in order to breathe properly, unless you are used to it, then you can just walk around. That is the only factor this alien planet plays into the film other than them grumbling about being on a boring planet. You can pretty much draw a line right down the middle of John Carpenters directorial career between They Live (1988) and Memoirs of the Invisible Man (1992). The first half is nearly perfect, and the second is nearly 100% wet garbage and after he made this mess he stopped directing for a decade. I’m hopeful he has one more genre-classic up his sleeve that he can deliver in his twilight years but it seems very slim and will probably need an excellent producer who is looking to give him the chance and some strong guidance.

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