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John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars
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From John Carpenter, the master of horror behind 1998's hit John Carpenter's Vampires and classics like The Thing and Halloween, comes a sci-fi thriller full of explosive action and bone-chilling suspense. Natasha Henstridge (Species) is Melanie Ballard, a headstrong police lieutenant on Mars in the year 2025. Humans have been colonizing and mining on the red planet for some time, but when Ballard and her squad are sent to a remote region to apprehend the dangerous criminal James "Desolation" Williams, played by Ice Cube (Three Kings), they discover that he's the least of their worries. The mining operations have unleashed a deadly army of Martian spirits who take over the bodies of humans and won't stop until they destroy all invaders of their planet. With a stellar cast including Pam Grier (Jackie Brown), Jason Statham (Snatch) and Clea Duvall (The Faculty), as well as explosive special effects, John Carpenter's GHOSTS OF MARS is an intergalactic terror fest like you've never seen.
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The story is as follows. It is the year 2176. Humanity has colonized Mars. However, some minors in the remote colony of Shining Canyon have dug up the remnants of an ancient civilization that used to inhabit Mars. There ghost are still inhabiting the place and possess the minors and turn them into zombies of some sort. LT. Melanie (Natasha Henstridge) of the Martian Police Force and her unit are sent to the c\Canyon to investigate and to pick up a dangerous criminal named James ‘Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube). So they must work together to escape alive.
The cast does very well surprisingly. Natasha Henstridge does a great job in the role and her character is badass and does not take crap from anyone. She is actually more of the protagonist than Ice Cube which is weird because he has top-billing in this film. In fact this is a good movie for women. This movie has quite a few badass women in it. Ice Cube actually does pretty well, which is surprising. The only films Ice Cube was in that I like are Are We There Yet? And Are We Done Yet? which are guilty pleasures of mine. Jason Statham is also in the film and he does a good job as well. Statham is always badass. The rest of the cast is fine as well.
The film looks great. The look of Mars is done very well given the budget they had. The zombies look great and intimidating. The sounds they make them ever more intimidating. The score is very well none and catchy. John Carpenter always composes great score for his films. The film also has some fun action scenes during the middle and ending portions of the movie.
There is one issue I have with it and it can get quite annoying. The issue is how the film is structured. The story is told out of order. The majority of the movie takes place in flashback. Many times there are flashbacks within the flashbacks or even flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks. Often they go back to scenes that already happened and expend on them to give us more information. Are you trying to be Memento, because you failed? Some stories can work being told in non-linear order like Memento or Batman Begins, but with this it does not work. Plus, doing it in that format pretty much gives away who is going to live and who is not. Also some shots are edited weird so it is hard to make out what is happening.
Despite its flaws, Ghosts of Mars is a very interesting and entertaining sci-fi film. If you are a fan of science fiction or of John Carpenter, then definitely check this out. You should have a good time if nothing else.
The film also features excellent editing through which Carpenter and his editor create a compelling sense of time passing in the story. For example, clever dissolves create interesting time compressions - e.g., characters begin walking down a passage and a quick dissolve later they are seen reaching the end of the passage; whereas in most movies a standard cut would have been used to compress time. The movie also makes interesting use of flash backs to show what characters A and B were doing in one location after we've been showed what characters C and D were doing at that moment in another location. The flash backs are fairly brief, and this technique combined with other clever editing helps create suspense as well as a certain pace and a compelling sense of events unfolding in a very specific manner which is reminiscent of other Carpenter films, in particular Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, and Prince Of Darkness.
I did not particularly like Mars the first time I watched it, but upon my second viewing a few years later I now realize I had been too dismissive. I'd been hoping for another The Fog, The Thing, or In The Mouth Of Madness instead of viewing Mars on its own merits. Is it as effective as these other movies? No, but that's beside the point. No filmmaker has a portfolio consisting of only masterpieces (not even Hitchcock or either Kurosawa, Akira or Kyoshi). Especially for Carpenter fans, or those who appreciate what a talented independent filmmaker can do with a small budget, Ghosts of Mars is well worth viewing, and certainly in my own case worth viewing again.