Review: Ghosts of Mars
Blu-ray: Ghosts of Mars (2001)
Movies set on Mars have never really had a good time of it and generally speaking, fared quite badly. Films like John Carter, Mission to Mars and Red Planet struggled to find an audience and were critically mauled. There are exceptions to the rule with The Martian and Total Recall seemingly bucking the trend but, success seems to elude the planet which many people find fascinating.
For anyone who listens to 60 Minutes With, you will know that John Carpenter is one of my all time favourite directors! His movies have thrilled, terrified and excited a generation of people and he has inspired filmmakers all over the world. Surely if anyone could make a decent movie based on Mars he can?
Natasha Henstridge plays Lieutenant Melanie Ballard who is part of a crew that are tasked with managing the transfer of notorious criminal “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube). As you can imagine things don’t go according to plan and it’s not long before all hell breaks loose.
Ghosts of Mars shares similarities with another Carpenter movie, Assault on Precinct 13, in as much as it is a siege movie where the cops are forced to share a fragile alliance with the so called bad guys. They must work together so that they can fight against a horde of crazies, who look like they are groupies from a Slipknot tribute band!
There is a decent ensemble cast featuring the likes of Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, and Peter Jason makes his obligatory cameo appearance. Jason Statham plays a lecherous Sergeant, Ice Cube does what he does best and scowls a lot, and whilst Natasha Henstridge has never been famed for her acting abilities, she does her best with a limited role.
Within the first few moments of the movie starting I could instantly tell the John Carpenter score as it has his distinctive style. Unfortunately for me, this didn’t last long and as I found from watching the extras, Anthrax worked on the soundtrack and it quickly descended into a noisy mess that irritated the crap out of me. I love rock music but found it incredibly intrusive and detracted away from the movie.
Unusually for a John Carpenter film there was zero tension, which was mainly because I honestly couldn’t give a monkeys about any of the characters. It seemed to take ages to get going and when it finally did, the action felt lame and nothing really got my pulse racing.
I hadn’t seen Ghosts of Mars before and I really wanted to like it but, if I’m honest I can’t really say that I’d recommend it. If you’re a John Carpenter fanatic and have to own all of his movies then you’ve probably already gone out and bought this. From my point of view he’s made far better films and you’d probably be better off re-watching classics like Halloween or The Thing rather than spending your time with this.
The extras are a mixed bag with the stand outs being the audio commentary from John Carpenter and Natasha Henstridge. John is always good value on commentary tracks and Natasha explains that she was drafted in at the last minute, so maybe I can forgive her a little for her wooden performance. The interview with Carpenter is interesting but the other extras are videos where little is explained about the making of the movie and mainly features on the set shorts observing the cast and crew at work.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• 5.1 surround sound track
• Alternative stereo audio
• Audio commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Natasha Henstridge
• The Guardian Interview with John Carpenter – Part Two, 1984-1994 (1994, 41 mins): the director discusses his career with Nigel Floyd at the National Film Theatre, London
• Video Diary: Red Desert Nights – Making ‘Ghosts of Mars’ (2001, 17 mins): location documentary exploring various aspects of the production
• Scoring ‘Ghosts of Mars’ (2001, 6 mins): behind-the-scenes footage of John Carpenter, Steve Vai, Buckethead and members of Anthrax during the recording sessions for the film’s score
• Special Effects Deconstruction (2001, 7 mins): documentary montage looking at the art and design of the film
• Concept Art Gallery: illustrator John Eaves’ original production designs
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Exclusive 24-page booklet with a new essay by Nick Pinkerton, and a 2001 on-set interview with John Carpenter
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 7,000 copies