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After reading the negative reviews for RED PLANET ($20), I kind of expected the movie to be a dog. While the film is by no means perfect, RED PLANET is no dog. In fact, RED PLANET actually proved to be a fairly entertaining sci-fi action movie. Set in the latter half of the 21st century, RED PLANET tells the story of mankind's quest to create a livable atmosphere on Mars, after extensive pollution has begun to take its toll on the Earth. After seeding Mars with a bioengineered algae designed to produce oxygen, something unexpected happens- the oxygen levels mysteriously begin to drop off. Desperate to find out what has gone wrong on Mars, an interplanetary mission is launched to learn what happened to the oxygen and the algae that were supposed to be producing the life-sustaining element. While the flight to Mars proves uneventful, a freak solar flare turns to the landing into a disaster that could cost the lives of the astronauts sent to the Red Planet.

The plot of RED PLANET is better than I expected because it is actually somewhat different that what the TV promos lead me to believe about the film. Some aspects of the movie are more interesting and more credible than others, but even the weakest plot points of RED PLANET are never boring. Special effects are truly first rate and usually serve the story quite well, instead of being appearing for the sake of padding the effects budget. The cast does well with the material, even though the characters are severely underwritten. RED PLANET features the talents of Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker and Terence Stamp (who is always a pleasure to watch).

Warner Home Video has made RED PLANET available on DVD in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the presentation features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Like any big budget movie just coming off of theatrical release, RED PLANET looks fantastic on DVD. The image is crisp, clean and minutely detailed. The red filtered appearance of the Martian landscape looks as good as those beautifully photographed scenes that take place on the spaceship. Colors are strongly rendered, especially the numerous reds that appear in RED PLANET. Red is probably the most difficult color to reproduce on video, but on the DVD, every shade of the warm hue is rock solid and without flaws, as is the rest of the pallet. Additionally, flesh tones look quite appealing under normal lighting. Blacks are pure, plus the image produces an excellent level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts remain out of sight throughout.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has all the bells and whistles one normally associates with films from the sci-fi and action genres. RED PLANET is aggressively mixed, with sound effects that effortlessly whiz around the entire sound field to create to create a convincing sonic environment that envelops the viewer. The split surrounds are especially well deployed during the film's action oriented sequences. Dialogue reproduction is clean and highly intelligible, despite the heavy-duty sonic activity spinning around the viewer. The bass channel is authoritative, which lends credence to the explosions and impacts. A French 5.1 channel is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's extras. Actually, RED PLANET has only one extra, which is slightly less than 15 minutes worth of deleted/extended scenes.

RED PLANET will never be regarded as a genre classic, but the movie is fairly entertaining and features very good special effects work. The DVD looks and sounds terrific, so if you are even mildly interested in the movie, the DVD is the only way to experience it at home.


Red Planet



DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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