Friday, August 22, 2003


A Video Review of "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

John Carpenter rarely disappoints when it comes to the action genre but sometimes it's stuff we've seen before. This time though it's a little more obvious than usual. John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars is a reworking of Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 just on Mars. It never denies what it is - a straight ahead action suspense flick - and at that game it is phenomenal.

In the future cops and criminals trapped in seemingly deserted Mars settlement are stalked and hunted by barbaric humans possessed by the spirits of evil maniacal ultraviolent Martians. They fight their way out. Chaos ensues. The story is simple and the action and suspense never lets up long enough to allow you to think about how cliched or nonsensical it is. This is a good thing. Other than we've seen it before the plot suffers from one major flaw. It is told in flashback so before it happens we know how it ends. That in itself is disappointing.

Natasha Henstridge is an adequate action heroine but it's a real joy to see Pam Grier back in that saddle. Natasha suffers in the shadow of the real action mistress. The men involved are no slouches either. The Transporter's Jason Statham is an excellent counterpoint and interesting sidekick to Henstridge and rapper Ice Cube is dangerous but heroic and sympathetic criminal Desolation Jones.

As usual Carpenter does the electronic score. Perfectly reflecting the pace and energy of the film I think this is one of his best since They Live or The Fog. Like the action the music never lets up. The make-up is a top notch nightmare of the pierced generation as the humans once possessed have a penchant for 'interesting' body adornment.

There are little details that make the story enjoyable like the fact that Mars is ruled by a matriarchy. The intricacies of this are never fully explored but there's not much time for philosophy in this flick. We never really do find out why the bad guys are bad but that's okay. I kind of like the whole mystery of an undecipherable alien race.

See it for the action and forget that it seems so damned familiar.

Rating ****

***** Must see
**** Worth seeing
*** So you have eight dollars you want to throw away…
** Is Adam Sandler in this mess?
* A bullet would be quicker.

The above previously appeared in a slightly different form at
Project Popcorn

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