Week 12: “Horror in Space”
Last week I talked about having watched John Carpenter’s Ghost of Mars (2001) but what I failed to mention was that it started a domino effect and I ended up watching Red Planet (2000) and Supernova (2000) as well. What you may also not know is that I saw all of these at the theater and enjoyed them like they were the greatest films ever made. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to any of them.
I won’t go into the details of Ghosts of Mars again (you’ll have to go back to last week’s column for that) but let’s start off with the Val Kilmer as “space janitor” movie Red Planet. This film had the greatest chance of being a great film. It had a suspenseful premise about a group of astronauts sent to discover a mystery on Mars that could save humanity. Their ship has a malfunction forcing most of them to crash land on Mars where hope vanishes when it is not what they were expecting and they are hunted by a rogue robot. It’s action packed and its funny and did I mention it had a robot (because robots make all films better)? Unfortunately, it was released after the abysmal Mission to Mars tanked at the Box Office. Studio heads thought that they needed to retool the film and add in more action while taking out all the philosophical ideas and things that made it unique. The end result was a film that was a mishmash of smart space travel movie mixed with action and suspense and even horror in the disguise of an alien creature which really only shows up in the final third of the film. It was a film that tried to speak to everyone but spoke to no one. On a production budget of $80 million it grossed only $33 million worldwide and was a Box Office dud in a huge way. Mission to Mars may have cost $100 million to produce but it at least made $110 million worldwide. Things being as they was (I saw both at the theater) I hated Mission to Mars but loved Red Planet. It wasn’t until the film found its way on DVD that I realized just how much of the movie was truly cut out as all the important and thought provoking scenes that glued the themes and ideas together were all cut out and replaced with dull action sequences (although I still like the robot). Red Planet had a charm that few other films about Mars ever had…at least that’s what I used to think. Watching it now, I realize that it is a good-bad movie that aged poorly.
I just have to say I loved the trailer for Supernova when I first saw it. I loved the music. I loved the way it was edited. And it had Angela Bassett and James Spader in it not to mention one of my childhood favorite actors Lou Diamond Phillips! This had to be the greatest film ever made. Then…I heard that director Walter Hill took his name off the film (to Thomas Lee) and the film was re-edited and turned into a bastard of its former self. This did not deter me from seeing it on opening night. Spader was the man and Bassett could do no wrong! Well…almost no wrong. The film was a mess with uninspired action that looked childish compared to other Hill movies and Spader was more than usually “wooden” in his performance. This still didn’t stop me from loving the film because I do love a good cheesy bad film and there is little to nothing good about this film. The other thing I hated about the film is the fact that some scenes that were in the trailer and that I had read about in Fangoria magazine were nowhere to be found in the final film. You would need to watch the special features and deleted scenes on the DVD to see all that. This was a horrible film…but I still loved it. This was a film that was so bad it was good because all the actors seemed to be having fun making the film (even the “wooden” Spader) and there is actually a fair amount of sex and sexual tension throughout the film. When I watched it again the other day I was even more aware of the sexual themes of the film and just how much it permeates through every character and pore of the film. This film even has a robot in it that plays an important role to the plot of the film. No one will ever claim that this is a good movie because it’s barely a watchable film that I’m sure all the actors try to forget is on their resume. This film cost an estimated $90 million to produce and only grossed $14.8 million worldwide. What do you expect from a film in which no one wanted to be released.
Now having seen Ghosts of Mars, Red Planet, and Supernova again you’re probably wondering, “Why?” Well, to be honest, they’re all a hell of a lot of fun and a triple feature of bad fun sci-fi horror films is exactly what a person needs sometimes. I own all three and they’re sitting on the shelf now gathering dust until I decide to once again get into the sci-fi horror mood. I could have watched Alien (1979) or Species (1995) or Pitch Black (2000) or Event Horizon (1997) but I consider all of those to actually be good and sometimes you just want to sit back and turn the brain off and watch a bad movie.