Mission to Mars

Mission to Mars
Mission to Mars

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Tom Jacobson
Written by Lowell Cannon
Jim Thomas
John Thomas
Graham Yost
Starring Gary Sinise
Tim Robbins
Don Cheadle
Connie Nielsen
Jerry O'Connell
Kim Delaney
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Editing by Paul Hirsch
Studio Touchstone Pictures
Spyglass Entertainment
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Release date(s) March 10, 2000
Running time 113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $100,000,000[1]
Box office $110,983,407[1]

Mission to Mars is a 2000 science fiction film directed by Brian De Palma from an original screenplay written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Graham Yost. The film's story details a fictional portrayal of a manned Mars exploration mission gone awry in the year 2020. The motion picture was partially inspired by the Disney attraction of the same name, making it Disney's second film based on an attraction at one of its theme parks, following the made-for-TV film Tower of Terror, released in 1997. Incorporated in the plot is the character of Jim McConnell, played by actor Gary Sinise, as an American astronaut who coordinates a rescue mission to a distant planet to retrieve a missing colleague. Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen and Jerry O'Connell star in principal supporting roles.

The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment. It was commercially distributed by Buena Vista Pictures theatrically, and by Buena Vista Home Entertainment for home media. Mission to Mars explores astronomy, extraterrestrial life and space exploration.[2] Despite the fact that the film employed the use of numerous extensive special effects, it failed to garner any award nominations from mainstream motion picture organizations for its production merits. On March 14, 2000, the original film score was released by the Hollywood Records label. It was composed, orchestrated and conducted by Italian musician Ennio Morricone.

Mission to Mars premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on March 10, 2000 grossing $60,883,407 in domestic ticket receipts. It earned an additional $50,100,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $110,983,407 in gross revenue. The film was technically considered a minor financial success due to it recouping its $100 million budget costs. However, preceding its initial screening in cinemas, the film was generally met with negative critical reviews. The widescreen DVD edition of the film featuring audio commentary along with a visual effects analysis among other highlights was released in the United States on June 4, 2002.



In 2020, a mission is launched to carry humans to the planet Mars for the first time. The Mars I spacecraft is commanded by Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) with fellow astronauts Nicholas Willis (Kavan Smith), Sergei Kirov (Peter Outerbridge) and Renée Coté (Jill Teed). Upon arrival, the team discover a crystalline upwelling within a mountain in the Cydonia region. After transmitting their finding back to the command center on the World Space Station orbiting Earth, they head for the site to do further analysis. Once there, they observe a strange sound, which they assume to be interference from their planetary rover. While attempting to scan the formation with radar, a large dust vortex envelops and kills Nicholas, Sergei and Renée. Only Luke survives after being buried alive in the rocky debris. After the vortex subsides, a large humanoid face is exposed within the sediment. Later, Luke manages to upload one emergency transmission to the R.E.M.O. (REsupply MOdule) orbiting the planet. After receiving Luke's garbled message conveying his crew members' deaths, the command center hastily coordinates a second vessel for a rescue mission.[2]

The crew of the Mars II recovery craft includes Commander Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), Co-Commander Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise) and mission specialists Terri Fisher (Connie Nielsen) and Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell). They attempt to investigate the tragedy, and retrieve Luke who is presumed to be alive and stranded on the planet. As the ship is being prepared for its orbital insertion around Mars, a swarm of meteorites collide with the shuttle's hull, causing an atmospheric pressure leak. The crew works quickly to repair the harm, but damage to the external fuel tanks cause the crew to subsequently abandon the ship. They quickly put on pressure suits and maneuver their way to the R.E.M.O. module orbiting the planet. Woody concludes; the only hope of a successful rendezvous with the R.E.M.O. is for him to launch himself directly at it using the remainder of his jet pack fuel, carrying a tether cord from the others. He successfully attaches the cord to the R.E.M.O. for his fellow astronauts, but is unable to properly land on it, floating helplessly away toward the planet ultimately succumbing to death.[2]

When the remaining group arrive on the surface from the R.E.M.O., they find Luke still alive. He has built a greenhouse and has been living on its produce. He tells the rescuers about his crew's find, and informs them that the formation found was humanoid in shape. His most significant discovery was a recording of the noise heard in the area of the mountain. After further examination, he had found that the sound was a map of human DNA in XYZ coordinates missing a strand of nucleotides. They deduce that the mysterious sounds were actually a prompt, requiring a return radio signal to input one of the missing pair of nucleotides which would complete the human DNA structure. Their prior episode with the radar scan sent out a false indicator triggering the destructive vortex. Aware of completing the sequence, but worried about a repeat of the catastrophe following the initial radar scan, the crew dispatches a rover to the mountain to relay the completed signal. Following the transmission, an opening appears in the side of the facial structure. Jim, Terri, and Luke head towards it, while Phil stays behind in an emergency return vehicle under orders to launch with or without them in a few hours. The company venture inside the structure and are sealed in. A dark room is unveiled, and after stepping inside, a three-dimensional projection of the solar system appears. The trio view the planet Mars, then covered with water, being hit by a large asteroid. A humanoid extraterrestrial then appears before the group. It reveals to them that the Martians evacuated their world in spacecraft following the planetary collision. One Martian headed towards Earth, remotely depositing a strand of DNA into an ocean which at the time contained no life forms. Over the millions of years that followed this event, the DNA evolved into fish, land mammals, and eventually humans, who would one day land on Mars and be recognized as descendants. As the image of the Martian fades away, an invitation is offered for one astronaut to follow them to their new home planet. Jim theorizes that they are actually inside an alien spacecraft and decides to go and continue his exploration. After their farewells, the rest of the surviving crew head back to Earth.[2]


Actor Tim Robbins who portrayed Woody Blake.
Gary Sinise  as Jim McConnell
Tim Robbins  as Woody Blake
Don Cheadle  as Luke Graham
Connie Nielsen  as Terri Fisher
Jerry O'Connell  as Phil Ohlmyer
Peter Outerbridge  as Sergei Kirov
Kavan Smith  as Nicholas Willis
Jill Teed  as Reneé Coté
Elise Neal  as Debra Graham
Kim Delaney  as Maggie McConnell
Robert Bailey Jr.  as Bobby Graham
Taylor Jones  as Daniel Lederman
Armin Mueller-Stahl  as Ramier Beck



The film was shot primarily on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jordan, and the Canary Islands.[3] Extensive special effects surrounding certain aspects of the film such as the NASA spacecraft and Martian vortex, were created by a number of digital effects companies including ILM, Dream Quest Images, Tippett Studio, CIS Hollywood, and Trans FX Inc.[3] Between visuals, miniatures, and animation, over 400 technicians were directly involved in the production aspects of the special effects.[3]


The original score for Mission to Mars, was released by the Hollywood Records music label on March 14, 2000.[4] The score for the film was orchestrated by Ennio Morricone in conjunction with the New York Philharmonic, while original songs written by musical artists Van Halen and Buckwheat Zydeco, were used in-between dialogue shots in the film. Suzana Peric and Nick Meyers edited the film's music.[3]

Mission to Mars: Original Score
Film score by Ennio Morricone
Released 03/14/2000
Length 62:11
Label Hollywood Records
Mission to Mars: Original Score
No. Title Length
1. "Heart Beats in Space"   7:58
2. "A Martian"   6:05
3. "A World Which Searches"   2:58
4. "And Afterwards?"   6:32
5. "A Wife Lost"   3:26
6. "Towards the Unknown"   8:14
7. "Ecstasy of Mars"   2:57
8. "Sacrifice of a Hero"   13:19
9. "Where?"   5:32
10. "An Unexpected Surprise"   2:32
11. "All the Friends"   2:39
Total length:


Critical response

Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received almost exclusively negative reviews.[5] Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of 110 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 4.1 out of 10.[6] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 34 based on 36 reviews.[5] Furthermore, the film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Brian De Palma in the category of Worst Director.[7]

The film's reception among French-language critics was markedly different in positive fashion.[8] Film journal Cahiers du cinéma devoted several articles to De Palma and Mission to Mars at the time of its release, and placed it as #4 in their list of the 10 best films of 2000.[9] The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.[10]

"Sinise and Robbins, a couple of awfully good actors, are asked to speak some awfully clunky lines. When Robbins says, “OK, we're ready to light this candle” before ignition, it sounds like a parody of astronaut lingo."
—Bob Graham, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle[11]

Mark Halverson, writing in the Sacramento News & Review, said in outward negativity, "My inner child felt cheated that the film leapt from an astronaut barbecue to Mars without so much as a rocket launch and that the best special effect (a sandstorm nod to The Mummy) was unveiled in the first 20 minutes." He emphatically added, "This visually alluring mess also includes gobs of cheesy dialogue and a hokey-looking alien."[12] Left unimpressed, Bob Graham in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that the film "meanders into space-mystico mumbo jumbo. We're supposed to share the characters' awe at the wonder of the universe, but more likely the audience will wonder whatever were the filmmakers thinking." Graham characterized Mission to Mars as "a very mixed bag: rhapsodic cinematography, several genuine shocks amid a suffocating air of gooeyness, impressive visual effects – even if some seem to exist in a vacuum – and an absolutely loony conclusion."[11] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, said the film "contains conversations that drag on beyond all reason. It is quiet when quiet is not called for. It contains actions that deny common sense. And for long stretches the characters speak nothing but boilerplate." He believed that "It misses too many of its marks. But it has extraordinary things in it. It's as if the director, the gifted Brian De Palma, rises to the occasions but the screenplay gives him nothing much to do in between them."[13] The film however, was not without its supporters. Michael Wilmington of the NY Daily News, exclaimed the film was "One of the most gorgeous science-fiction movies ever - and probably also one of the most realistic in detail and scientific extrapolation".[14] Richard Corliss of TIME commented that "This isn't "2001," by a long shot, but for 2000, it'll do nicely."[15] William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, added to the positive sentiment by saying "Here and there an inspired shot makes the film come alive, and at least three of its sequences had me positioned well on the edge of my seat."[16]

Writing for The Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov bluntly noted that the "Mission to Mars falls prey to an overwhelming sense of a man trying to please everyone all the time." He went further pointing out that "De Palma has reached out to embrace a larger audience and seemingly sacrificed those traits that drew us to him in the first place: his singular vision, his clinical stylistics, and the palpable sense of dread that his best films engender."[17] In a mixed review, James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film "Ineptly directed, badly acted, and scripted with an eye towards stupidity and incoherence, the film is worthwhile only to those who are in desperate need of a nap. And, as is often the case when a big budget, high profile motion picture self-destructs, this one does so in spectacular fashion."[18] Describing a mixed opinion, J. Hoberman of The Village Voice said the film encompassed "a touchy-feely esprit that's predicated on equal parts Buck Rogers bravado and backyard barbecue, the whole burnt burger drenched in Ennio Morricone's elegiac western-style score."[19]

"Unfortunately, the filmmakers' imagination flags in the closing sequences; the movie's final reel looks like a high-tech museum exhibit entitled 2001: A Space Odyssey for Dummies."
—Margaret A. McGurk, writing for the The Cincinnati Enquirer[20]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times, stated that the "visual design is spectacular, and the scenes on the Martian surface look so real that the picture could have been made on location. A holographic sequence detailing the evolutionary link between Earth and Mars is staggeringly well staged."[21] However, he ultimately came to the conclusion that there wasn't "an original moment in the entire movie, and the score is so repetitive that it could have been downloaded directly from EnnioMorricone.com."[21] Similarly, Todd McCarthy wrote in Variety that the film's "dramatic package that it arrives in is so flimsy, unconvincing and poorly wrought that it's impossible to be swept away by the illustrated version of creationism on offer." In a hint of commendation though, he did note "Pictorially, the film is smooth and pristine looking. De Palma and his frequent cinematographer Stephen H. Burum go for their patented swooping and twisting camera moves whenever possible, and there are some very nice ones onboard the recovery ship."[22] Also in negative sentiment, Lisa Schwarzbaum writing for Entertainment Weekly deduced that "Mission to Mars wants us to think about lofty things: the bravery of explorers, the ingenuity of our nation's space program, the humility required to comprehend the possibility that we earthlings are not the be-all and end-all of creation. But De Palma's film is too embarrassed, too jittery and self-conscious to hush up and pay attention."[23]

Box office

DVD box cover artwork for Mission to Mars

The film premiered in cinemas on March 10, 2000 in wide release throughout the U.S.. During its opening weekend, the film opened in first place grossing $22,855,247 in business showing at 3,054 locations.[1] The film, The Ninth Gate came in second place during that weekend grossing $6,622,518.[24] The film's revenue dropped by 50% in its second week of release, earning $11,385,709. For that particular weekend, the film fell to 2nd place screening in 3,060 theaters. Erin Brockovich, unseated Mission to Mars to open in first place grossing $28,138,465 in box office revenue.[25] During its final weekend in release, it opened in a distant 72nd place with $17,467 in revenue.[26] The film went on to top out domestically at $60,883,407 in total ticket sales through an 18-week theatrical run.[1] The film took in an additional $50,100,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $110,983,407 in gross revenue.[1] For 2000 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 41.[27]

Home media

Following its cinematic release in theaters, the film was released in VHS video format on January 16, 2001.[28] The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on June 4, 2002. Special features for the DVD include; Audio Commentary Animatics to Scene Comparison, Documentary "Visions of Mars", Visual Effects Analysis Production, Art Gallery, and DVD-ROM Features.[29] Currently, there is no scheduled release date set for a future Blu-ray Disc version of the film, although it is available in other media formats such as Video on demand.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mission to Mars". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=missiontomars.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d Brian De Palma. (2000). Mission to Mars [Motion picture]. United States: Touchstone Pictures.
  3. ^ a b c d "Mission to Mars (2000)". Yahoo! Movies. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1800352357/cast. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  4. ^ "Mission to Mars: Original Score". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Mars-Original-Ennio-Morricone/dp/B00004RCUI. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  5. ^ a b Mission to Mars. Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  6. ^ Mission to Mars (2000). Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  7. ^ "2000 RAZZIE® Nominees & "Winners"". Golden Raspberry Award. http://www.razzies.com/forum/2000-razzie-nominees-winners_topic350.html. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  8. ^ Steven Dillon. The Solaris Effect: Art and Artifice in Contemporary American Film. University of Texas Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0292713451. 
  9. ^ Top Ten Lists: 1951-2009. Cahiers du Cinema. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Mission to Mars". festival-cannes.com. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/5176/year/2000.html. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  11. ^ a b Graham, Bob (10 March 2000). Spaced Out `Mission to Mars' gets lost in mystical mumbo jumbo. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  12. ^ Halverson, Mark (24 May 2001). Mission to Mars. Sacramento News & Review. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (10 March 2000). Mission to Mars. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  14. ^ Wilmington, Michael (10 March 2000). Mission to Mars. NY Daily News. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  15. ^ Corliss, Richard (10 March 2000). Mission to Mars. TIME. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  16. ^ Arnold, William (10 March 2000). Mission to Mars. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  17. ^ Savlov, Marc (10 March 2000). Mission to Mars. The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  18. ^ Berardinelli, James (March 2000). Mission to Mars. ReelViews. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  19. ^ Hoberman, J. (14 March 2000). Missions Impossible. The Village Voice. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  20. ^ McGurk, Margaret (14 March 2000). Mars looks familiar next to nothing. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  21. ^ a b Mitchell Elvis, (10 March 2000). Small Step for Man, but a Big Whoop for Martians. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  22. ^ McCarthy, Todd (9 March 2000). Mission to Mars. Variety. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  23. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (17 March 2000). Mission to Mars. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  24. ^ "March 10–12, 2000 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?view=&yr=2000&wknd=10&p=.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  25. ^ "March 17–19, 2000 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?view=&yr=2000&wknd=11&p=.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  26. ^ "July 14–16, 2000 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2000&wknd=29&p=.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  27. ^ "2000 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2000&p=.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  28. ^ "Mission to Mars VHS Format". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Mars-VHS-Tim-Robbins/dp/B0000524E6. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  29. ^ "Mission to Mars - DVD". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Mars-Gary-Sinise/dp/B00003CWU3/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1319000822&sr=1-1. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  30. ^ "Mission to Mars: VOD Format". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Mission-To-Mars/dp/B00567DD4C/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1319000822&sr=1-2. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
Further reading
  • Schochet, Stephen (2010). Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and Legends of the Movies!. BCH Fulfillment & Distribution. ISBN 978-0963897275. 
  • Badmington, Neil (2004). Alien Chic: Posthumanism and the Other Within. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415310239. 
  • Lathers, Marie (2010). Space Oddities: Women and Outer Space in Popular Film and Culture, 1960-2000. Continuum. ISBN 978-1441190499. 
  • Urbanek, Zuzana (2009). A Book Full of Movies: You May Not Have Seen. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1449930684. 
  • Leviton, Richard (2004). The Emerald Modem: A User’s Guide to Earth’s Interactive Energy Body. Hampton Roads. ISBN 978-1571742452. 
  • McCracken, Grant (2008). Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253219572. 
  • Daugherty, John (2004). Exploration: Themes of Science Fiction, A Brief Guide. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1412013307. 
  • Harris, Paola (2008). Connecting the Dots...: Making Sense of the UFO Phenomenon. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1434371782. 
  • Westfahl, Gary (2009). Islands in the Sky: The Space Station Theme in Science Fiction Literature. Borgo Press. ISBN 978-1434403568. 
  • Gierke, Christian (2001). Der digitale Film. Books on Demand GmbH. ISBN 978-3831115099. 
  • Lippe, Jonathan (2007). Simulation Theory. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 978-1425774455. 
  • Joubert, Bernard (2006). Histoires de censure. Musardine (La). ISBN 978-2842713133. 
  • Flieger, Jerry (2005). Is Oedipus Online?: Siting Freud after Freud. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262562072. 
  • McClean, Shilo (2008). Digital Storytelling: The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262633697. 
  • Rickman, Gregg (2004). The Science Fiction Film Reader. Limelight Editions. ISBN 978-0879109943. 
  • Seewood, Andre (2008). Slave Cinema: The Crisis of the African-American in Film. Xlibris, Corp.. ISBN 978-1436321792. 
  • Keegan, Rebecca (2010). The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0307460325. 
  • Smith, Jerry (2006). Weather Warfare. Adventures Unlimited Press. ISBN 978-1931882606. 

External links

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