What happened to Brian De Palma?
At least when he was ripping off Hitchcock, he was ripping off Hitchcock. The farther he has strayed from being the Master of Imitating the Master of Suspense, the farther his films have strayed from being good. Or at the very least, a good example of theft-as-homage.
Mission to Mars is about as interesting as the old Disneyland attraction of the same name. It also seems like it was written and directed and released by animatronic robots.
Although it succeeds where Armageddon failed at making a family-film out of a disaster action flick, it succeeds a little too well, becoming, in fact, a saccharin family film bizarrely surrounded by violence and gore. The thirty minutes of onscreen action are astounding, gripping, thrilling and still not nearly enough to forgive the surrounding hour-and-fifteen minutes of heartstring-tugging backstory and Carl Saganisms that surround it.
Several terribly good actors--Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle and the fat kid from Stand By Me among them--say a whole lot of terribly insipid things to one another while they attempt a rescue mission to a research base on Mars where a cataclysmic tornado holds the key to life in the universe, herein represented musically but without the sense of melody the aliens in Close Encounters had.
Mission to Mars is a dreadful movie, more than likely made by suits in mouse ears rather than De Palma himself. Watching it, I actually longed to see Body Double again. Of course, I when I got home I watched Rear Window instead, because, you know…