The year is 2020 and the party is at astronaut Luke Graham's house. It's in celebration of the very first mission to Mars that will be manned by two Russians and two Americans.
The first mission successfully lands on the Red Planet only to discover something that bears an uncanny resemblance to the hose of a vacuum cleaner of slightly biggish proportions that swallows three of the crew members and spares one of them so that he might discover what constitutes the essence of the film - a brand new theory of evolution.
It's interesting actually. If one attempts to ignore the fact that Darwin has rolled over three times in his grave since the release of this sci-fi entertainer, one does get quite caught up in the comings and goings of big-headed, cow-eyed aliens overflowing with the milk of human kindness, who billions of years ago had one of their ships land on their sister planet - namely Earth - and seed it with life forms.
A giant white face on a red hot landscape can be accessed by feeding it a password - the human genetic code. Enter the face and you meet your forefathers - and this is exactly what the rescue mission to Mars does.
The computer generated special effects are excellent and would excite any sci-fi enthusiast. The world space station, the space crafts, Mars itself - all look authentic. The interiors of the crafts are detailed and realistic and the scene where the astronaut couple on board waltz around in conditions of low gravity is well filmed. All the complications in this fantasy are neatly orchestrated and the camera looks with extreme scrutiny at the faces it is trained on. It falls short only when one of the crew loses a dear one; here we see that the director has had to cut down on emotion so as to get on with the story.
There's not much in the way of performances as the emphasis in the film is clearly more on plot than on characters, and a lot of seasoned actors have been roped in to promote publicity, rather than for their acting skills. As in any disaster flick, a few committed guys perish in the cause of the larger interest of mankind so that everybody gets to go home... us included.
All in all, this inter-planetary adventure is worth one peek - if not for the story or the acting, then perhaps for the gadgetry, sets and effects.This article was first published on 17 Jul 2000.