Plot: Long inhabited by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. Nearly 640,000 people now live and work all over Mars, mining the planet for its abundant natural resources. But one of those mining operations has uncovered a deadly mother lode: a long-dormant Martian civilization whose warriors are systematically taking over the bodies of human intruders.
I remember the trailer to this movie as it was a blatant rip-off of the Con Air trailer (which incidentally is still one of the all-time greatest teasers) but this trailer was elevated due to the narration by Keith David (see below).
Sitting at 21% on Rotten Tomatoes John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars was dumped on by the majority of critics when it was first released back in 2001. It has since grown a cult following and apparently 80% of Google users like it. I am one of them.
It really feels like a greatest hits of John Carpenter with hints of Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York and The Fog; some of the visuals are a little ropey but the cast alone make this fun.
Natasha Henstridge is the lead in Ghosts of Mars and she is damn fine at kicking ass; I always liked how she takes drugs and is occasionally high making her a flawed but interesting protagonist.
Let us also not forget that we have a certain Jason Statham (with hair) in one of his earliest roles; he has certainly grown as an actor since as he spends most of this movie looking confused but he still had that gruff likability and his constant flirting with Henstridge provides a few laughs in between the carnage.
Ice Cube is the same as he is in everything but he’s always entertaining just being Ice Cube; he has some choice lines of dialogue like “Damn, girl, I like you already” after he is punched by Henstridge but his finest hour has to be “COME ON, YOU MINDLESS MOTHER FUCKERS!” before a massive gun battle ensues.
The first half is a little slow getting going but it’s building up atmosphere which Carpenter was always good at and I still miss seeing new movies from him. He’s also on scoring duties and gives us a metal themed noise which works perfectly for the rather spectacular final half hour where we get some huge (real) explosions, fights and shoot-outs. There are some impressive decapitations but in terms of gore this is actually quite tame for a Carpenter flick and I wonder if a lot was left on the cutting room floor.
The main villain is the awesomely named Big Daddy Mars who doesn’t do much except look mean and shout “AGGHHH!!!” a lot but hey, if it works…
It’s pure cheese and the final scene especially is incredibly lame, but boy is it ever fun and I find it a hard movie not to love. It was very much open for a sequel but due to its box office failure and the fact it burnt out Carpenter making him leave movies for a long time, it’s no wonder it never saw the light of day.
Interesting tidbit: this was initially called Escape from Mars and was going to be the third Snake Plissken film but due to Escape from L.A. not being a huge success the idea was scrapped and the lead was changed to Desolation Williams (Ice Cube); I stand by that Desolation Williams is a great character name.
So Sue Me! It may be very flawed and incredibly cheesy but that’s I still love Ghosts of Mars. I guess I’ll see y’all in court.