Friday, December 2, 2016

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Ghosts of Mars (Review)
United States/2001
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"I applaud it for its originality."

On Mars, a police unit is sent to pick up and transfer a notorious criminal from an isolated mining post. Their plans are derailed when they discover the area has been abandoned and the buildings have been filled with the dead...

Ghosts of Mars is a very creative film. It's a science-fiction action-horror sort-of zombie movie that takes place on Mars. That's pretty creative, right? The plot primarily follows police officer Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) and the rest of her unit. The unit arrives at a mining post to pick up prisoner Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). The problem: nearly everyone is dead. The bigger problem: the survivors have been possessed. There's quite a bit that goes on in the plot, especially towards the beginning where it's trying to build its world, but it eventually irons out for a smooth ride during the latter half. As a whole, I'd say it gets progressively better until its very cheesy ending.

As a matter of fact, the entire film is cheesy. At times, it feels like it's on purpose – it feels natural, so it works. Then, there are moments where it feels unintentional, so it comes off as cringey – for want of a better word. The inconsistent tone of the film sends you on a roller-coaster of ups-and-downs. One moment, you're enjoying a cheesy popcorn action flick; the next, you're wondering if Carpenter was serious or if he was just messing with all of his fans. Despite its inconsistent tone and often disjointed storytelling, I still liked this mishmash of horror, action, and comedy (intentional and otherwise). Particularly, I enjoyed the film's originality. This film has personality, which you can't say for many movies nowadays. This isn't just another supernatural horror movie because it has 'Ghosts' in the title. No, it manages to be more, even if it feels like the writers bit off more than they could chew. I appreciate that.

The acting is another area where I can't tell if the performances were supposed to be serious or not. It says a lot when the best performances come from Ice Cube and Jason Statham. Don't get me wrong, I like the pair, but they're not exactly the most diverse or emotional. Yet, they were arguable the best in this film. Natasha Henstridge was stiff and boring. (By the way, her character always fumbles in this film, which bothered me. I mean, she is a walking plot contrivance.) The cinematography was decent. The special effects aren't spectacular, but the practical effects were solid. The music was great – you have to love Carpenter's music. The film was written by John Carpenter and Larry Sulkis; Carpenter also directs. The writing could have used work to iron out some of its blatant plot contrivances and more effectively build up the world; the dialogue, which was often cringe-inducing, could have used some work, too. Carpenter's direct was solid, though. In terms of vision, I think Carptenter was able to craft an exciting action-horror film. He had to cut some corners, the world was perhaps too large for its own good, but I think it worked out.

Overall, John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars is a decent film. I applaud it for its originality. The action sequences, especially towards the second half, were also good. It's a little corny, which can often work for and against the film, but it ultimately adds to the film's personality. If you're tired of the same old haunted houses, this is a refreshing film. Just don't expect anything too 'serious' from this, at least not on the surface.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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