Ghosts of Mars Movie Review

America loves convenience. After all, we're the culture that invented the cell phone, the 24-hour ATM, and my most beloved, the remote control. Yet perhaps this time, with Ghosts of Mars, we have taken our love of convenience to far.

Ghosts of Mars stars Natasha Henstridge as a tough as nails, pill-poppin', Martian cop, sent with her squadron to retrieve "Demolition" Williams (Ice Cube) from a remote mining town for trial back home. When she and her comrades, appropriately dubbed "The Commander," "The Rookies," and the guy with the cool accent discover the town's residents slaughtered, they are forced to team up with Williams to escape from the remaining residents' head-chopping, alien-possessed clutches.

Filled with a lovely overuse of storytelling flashbacks, flashes-sideways, and viewpoint changes, Ghosts of Mars is a hapless mishmash of poorly constructed dialogue and ill-conceived action sequences. The only thing keeping this film from becoming an incomprehensible mess is the sheer idiotic simplicity of its story. Ripped straight from the pages of a 1970s zombie movie, Ghosts leaps from one convenient moment to the next, stopping only to kill the characters which are most convenient to lose.

Attempts at character interaction and development are rare and forced. Most of these moments come off as Kwik-E-Mart wisdom, dispensed heartily around the Slushee machine of life by the even-tempered streetwise hand of Ice Cube. With a gun in one hand and a dynamite cap in the other, Cube reminisces about his street life, comparing the zombie-stomping fun to "Me and my brother when we was kids." Apparently, crime in the Bronx has gotten so bad that the residents have actually taken to ritually decapitating one another for entertainment.

But, even in the film's darkest moments, fate conveniently lends a hand, supplying heavily armored transportation and easily accessible rifles and dynamite. Yes, in the future, man may travel to space and conquer Mars, but nothing beats a good stick of TNT. And as we all know, every police station, past, present, or future, keeps a healthy supply on hand.

Characters die, heads are lopped off, but they were only supporting roles anyway, so why should we care? As long as you have plenty of narcotics, immunity is guaranteed. Eventually though, even the most well-trained zombie alien gets a bit uppity and needs to be taught a lesson. What better way than by sacrificing a few minor characters to a convenient nuclear detonation, killing anything the machine guns can't handle. Explosions are fun. And even if the nukes don't get them, the conveniently placed dynamite packs on the train stolen from the set of The Road Warrior certainly will.

In the end this film defines itself when our cop's tribunal pronounces, "Is that all you have to tell us?" For, indeed, John Carpenter has run out of things to say, and has instead decided to use whatever is convenient to tell a ridiculously bad story.

Spirit fingers.


Ghosts of Mars Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: R, 2001


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