Victims: Nerds and Ancient Astronaut theorists everywhere.
Similarities: Both deal with space missions to Mars that go awry.
Differences: There are two distinct differences between these two films. The time in which it takes place and the overall conflict of the plot.
Red Planet takes place in 2056 and Earth is on the verge of a global crisis due to pollution and overpopulation. The solution has been to alter the environment of Mars in order to make it habitable for humans. They accomplish this through automated missions in which they “seed” Mars with Algae that releases oxygen into the atmosphere. The Mars-1 crew is sent to investigate The Red Planet after planetary scans show the oxygen levels suddenly declining.
Overall the plot is a bit weak. Pollution? Overpopulation? All pretty predictable factors in a futuristic sci-fi movie so no surprises there. Lets take a look at the cast. They must be a poorly roundup group of actors, right? I mean you have Val Kilmer . . . wait umm . . . Carrie-Anne Moss . . . no, she’s the only woman in the damn movie . . . there’s your nerd bait. Oh Tom Seizemore. . . wait but everyone kind of likes that guy . . . Simon Baker better known for his current role in The Mentalist . . . Benjamin Bratt and the great Terence Stamp . . . WTF? This isn’t a terrible cast. The most unknown person working on this film is the the director Antony Hoffman, who never went on to make another film.
Mission to Mars begins in the year 2020. Not as much of a futuristic jump as Red Planet but a supposed glance into a would-be future none the less. Like Red Planet it deals with humans trying to colonize Mars. They are doing this by setting up space stations on the surface and building agriculture green-house like buildings where they can produce plants and in turn, a source of oxygen. This first mission also dubbed Mars – 1 is led by astronaut Luke Graham, Don Cheadle. Basically they encounter electronic interference one day and while on an expedition and get attacked by an unseen force. They lose communication with Earth and everyone is thought to be dead. I have a link tot he video below because it’s pretty much the “oh ****” scene of the movie.
Mission to Mars is much better than Red Planet. Yes it deals with the fact that we are going to suffocate our planet with pollution in the future if we continue on they way we do but it doesn’t let that control the story. Above all else it is a very typical rescue-action-drama. It could take place in outer space or the old west with their compadres held captive by mountain men in Appalachia. Either way, Gary Sinise is coming to get you. Fully equipped with a scowly smile and baby blue eyeballs.
Once inside the face on Mars structure they realize that it is actually a monument left to them by their galactic ancestors telling them the secrets of how humans came to be on planet Earth.
Verdict: I think it’s pretty clear that I liked Mission to Mars far better than Red Planet. Although both movies suffered from lulls in action Mission to Mars is the strongest of the two stories. It deals with an explanation of human existence which isn’t hard to swallow even if you DON’T believe in aliens. Could there actually be a face on Mars? And if there is, couldn’t it be a constructed building of some kind left by our ancestors? It’s an interesting question. Who knows how long it will take us to truly understand and explore the vast universe around us.