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Red Planet

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Antony Hoffman
Produced by Bruce Berman
Mark Canton
Written by Chuck Pfarrer
Jonathan Lemkin
Starring Val Kilmer
Carrie-Anne Moss
Benjamin Bratt
Tom Sizemore
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Editing by Robert K. Lambert
Dallas Puett
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) November 6, 2000
Running time 106 minutes
Language English, Russian
Budget $80,000,000
Gross revenue $33,463,969

Red Planet is a 2000 Technicolor science fiction film directed by Antony Hoffman, starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Val Kilmer. It was released on November 6, 2000.



In 2056 CE, the Planet Earth is in ecologic crisis as a consequence of pollution and overpopulation. Meanwhile, automated interplanetary missions have been seeding Planet Mars with atmosphere-producing algae for twenty years as the first stage in terraforming the planet. When the oxygen quantity produced by the algae is inexplicably reduced, the crew of Mars-1 must learn why, and continue the mission of terraforming the red planet for human colonization.

En route to Mars, the crew get to know one another through discussions about science, spirituality, and religion. Quinn Burchenal, the geneticist (Tom Sizemore), is an agnostic. Aging scientist and surgeon Bud Chantillas (Terence Stamp) is philosophical, having come to believe long ago that "science could not answer any of the really interesting questions." Mechanical systems engineer and "space janitor" Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer) acts as Chantillas's protégé, and flirts with the spaceship's beautiful, but no-nonsense commander, Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss). Also on board is arrogant pilot Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt) and Pettengil (Simon Baker).

The ship arrives to Mars orbit on February 5 2057 after a 182-day journey, but a solar flare disrupts key systems, complicates their orbit and forces Bowman (Moss) to remain aboard and repair them, while the others land. Their first goal is to locate an automated habitat established earlier on Mars in the Ares Vallis area to manufacture 26 months worth of food and oxygen in preparation for the crew's arrival.

The landing craft is damaged entering the Martian atmosphere, veers off course, and crash-lands far from their landing zone near the habitat. In the process, they lose track of "AMEE", a military robot that is their "Mars surface navigator." Moreover, Chantillas was critically injured in the crash landing, and they have insufficient air to take him to the habitat where his ruptured spleen could be attended. With limited air, Chantillas tells them to leave him behind and complete the mission.

Meanwhile, in orbit, Bowman deals with several disasters in Mars-1 including a zero-gravity fire and computer and mechanical systems failures. She manages to contact Earth, which informs her that Mars-1 will crash on the red planet in 31 hours. However, mission control also believes it can restore engine function for a main engine burn and exit from Mars orbit before this happens.

The disheartened men complete the long walk to the automated habitat only to find it destroyed. With only minutes of air remaining, each man contemplates his impending death by suffocation. Pettengill (Simon Baker) and Santen (Benjamin Bratt) wander away to see as much of Mars as they can before dying. They reach a canyon, and discuss their impressions of their situation as they enjoy the view, while awaiting death.

Pettengill despairs his fate and laments the crew's failure. Military pilot Santen, regards the mission a technical success, since everything that went wrong was beyond human control. The men argue, and it becomes a scuffle; Pettengill inadvertently pushes Santen over the cliff and into the canyon. More distraught, Pettengill returns to Burchenal and Gallagher to await death and tells them that Santen jumped off a cliff in suicide. Gallagher's air has only a few seconds left, so with nothing to lose, he opens his visor, takes a breath, and discovers to his surprise that Mars's atmosphere is thin but breathable. For the moment, the three survivors are safe, although the guilt-ridden Pettengill becomes dismayed on understanding that Santen would have survived if he had not fallen into the canyon.

Despite unlimited air, they remain stranded on the surface of Mars and are unable to communicate with the orbiting Mars-1 above. AMEE reunites with the crew, and the three astronauts notice the robot is damaged and try removing its power supply. That threat to the robot's survival activates its military programming. Defining the astronauts as enemy, AMEE attacks them. It intentionally wounds Burchenal, following the military tactic that an injured soldier slows an entire unit. From then on, the robot stalks the landing party's trek across the Martian surface.

Eventually, Gallagher is able to construct a make-shift heterodyne crystal radio using parts from the Mars Rover from the Pathfinder mission. Hours pass as they await a reply from Earth. Mission control receives it and tells Cmdr. Bowman aboard Mars-1 — just as she is about to leave Mars orbit. With only 19 hours time left, she instructs the men to reach an old Russian Cosmos probe 100km away and use its sample-return system to launch themselves to orbit.

The three men begin the trek, occasionally talking with Bowman and reporting strange findings on the surface. There are patches of algae, but little explanation of why it disappeared in some regions. Pettengill's behavior also becomes erratic. As the three ground crew survivors continue their trek, Bowman tells Gallagher that the Mars probe can only hold two of them. An approaching ice storm complicates their survival en route to the Mars spacecraft, but all three find shelter in a small cave. There Gallagher reveals to Burchenal and Pettengill that the Russian probe in which they hope to escape Mars can transport only two men. The guilty Pettengill, worried that he will be abandoned, becomes deranged and runs away with the radio in mid-storm, only to be killed by AMEE. When the storm passes, Burchenal and Gallagher recover the radio and continue to the Mars craft, but make a startling discovery: Pettengill's corpse is infested with insect-like creatures feeding on his dead flesh. Burchenal discovers that the insects explode when exposed to flame.

Burchenal and Gallagher resume the trek. Along the way, they reach a large algae-covered field and Burchenal grasps what has been happening: the insects are native Martian life laying dormant until a food source, such as algae, arrived and took root. The insects eat the algae and excrete oxygen creating the new Martian atmosphere and explaining why they explode when burned.

Unfortunately, the insects go into a feeding frenzy and swarm Burchenal when blood drips from an open wound. He passes his pressure suit (with collected data, air, and sample bugs) to Gallagher, and rather than be eaten alive, he ignites the bugs, causing a chain reaction that burns the remaining algae and much of the region's atmosphere. The explosive fire is large enough to be seen from the orbiting Mars-1 space ship.

Gallagher finally reaches the Mars probe with only 50 minutes left. He must now jury-rig an orbital launch, but not before a final, definitive fight with AMEE. Again low on air, Gallagher's only chance is to get close enough to Mars-1 and be rescued by Bowman. Retrieving AMEE's power supply moments before she self-destructs, he rigs it up to the Russian systems and successfully launches his improvised escape module.

Bowman detects the launch and moves Mars-1 into position to recover the module; however, by this time, Gallagher has passed out from the launch. Quickly donning a spacesuit she exits Mars-1 to recover Gallagher before his air supply runs out. Returning with Gallagher to the launch bay, the computer announces that Gallagher is in cardiac arrest. Quickly she initiates CPR and within moments brings him back around.

Sitting on the command deck, Bowman and Gallagher share a moment before kissing passionately. As the ship heads back to Earth, Bowman's voice narrates the success of the mission and tells of how the brave crew of Mars-1 saved the Earth. As the ship disappears once more into the black void on her long trip home, she looks to her journey with some optimism, remarking that now, "I've got six months to get to know the Janitor."


Actor Role
Val Kilmer Robby Gallagher
Carrie-Anne Moss Cmdr. Kate Bowman
Tom Sizemore Dr. Quinn Burchenal
Benjamin Bratt Lt. Ted Santen
Simon Baker Chip Pettengill
Terence Stamp Dr. Bud Chantilas
Neil Ross Space Suit (voice) (uncredited)


Red Planet opened at #5 at the North American box office making $8.7 million USD in its opening weekend. The film was a box office bomb, grossing $33 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $80 million[1].

The film received negative reviews, with only a 13% "fresh" rating on Rotten as of December 2008[2] Stephen Holden's review in the New York Times was almost entirely negative, calling the film "a leaden, skimpily plotted space-age Outward Bound adventure with vague allegorical aspirations that remain entirely unrealized."[3]

Notable aspects of the film

Red Planet was the only film from director Antony Hoffman.

Red Planet was the second film to be released in 2000 about a manned voyage to Mars, the other being Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars starring Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins.

The High Orbit Space Station, featured at the beginning of the film, if looked at closely, is an expansion on the International Space Station. The basic completed design of the ISS is featured on top of the main complex, giving the impression that the station had been expanded upon over the years. This is also another link between this film and Mission to Mars, which featured the World Space Station. That station was inspired by the ISS, except with a rotating torus on one of its Main Trusses.[citation needed]


The music of Red Planet was composed by New Zealander Graeme Revell, with performances from French singer Emma Shapplin.

See also


  1. ^ Red Planet (2000)
  2. ^ Rotten page for Red Planet
  3. ^ "Red Planet: Finding the Terra Not So Firma on Mars," Stephen Holden, New York Times, November 10, 2000

External links



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