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Another Bad Mars Movie

John Carpenter’s ‘Ghost of Mars’ Proves that Hollywood’ll Never Learn

By Daniel Dock

Directed by John Carpenter

Written by John Carpenter and Larry Sulkis

Starring Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Pam Grier, Clea Duvall, and Jason Statham

Rated R

A stale, arid, and repetitive landscape sets the scene for director John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, a stale, arid, and repetitive film. The movie begins with a shot of the planet Mars in 2176, a a planet inhabited by 640,000 people and exploited for its rich natural resources. Given the promising start, it might even fool the viewer into believing that, perhaps, this film will not be full of cheap costumes, laughable sets, and an unimaginative screenplay. Be not misled.

Ghosts of Mars is disappointing to anyone who expects movies to convince the viewer that they are spectators to actual events, and not that they are watching a bunch of actors jumping around on some sound stage with poorly built sets. After watching this, I have decided that you know a movie is bad when you say, “I can’t believe Pam Grier was in this movie!”

Ghost of Mars begins with the return of Sergeant Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) from some adventure, alone and unconscious. Sergeant Melanie and her commanding officer, Helena (Pam Grier), were sent along with Bashira (Clea Duvall) and two male officers to pick up James “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube) and transport him to his trial. When Sergeant Melanie and her team arrive to pick up “Desolation” Williams, they notice that most of the people have been decapitated and hung from the ceilings of certain buildings. If this sight isn’t disturbing enough, next to the bodies there are weapon mobiles made of scissors and blades, which do nothing but bring back bad memories of the torturous Blair Witch Project.

Eventually, the group of officers speaks to the other inmates to find the obligatory character who knows every detail about the beasts and their transgressions, a person named Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy). Unfortunately, Whitlock has unleashed the beasts from years of hibernation. Apparently, the so-called “Ghosts of Mars” are taking over people’s bodies and making them kill each other in order to protect themselves from the human invaders.

“Desolation” Williams is let out of his cell, only to find himself joining the officers in their attacks against the beasts. Of course Sergeant Melanie makes it out alive, as she is conveying the story. Because of the fact we know she survives, most if not all of the suspense is lost as the movie unfolds.

Not only is the plot ludicrous and unimaginative, but every technical aspect of the movie is lacking. Sets looked half finished, the costumes look cheap. All outside shots were on the same set, a set so terrible that the edge of it could be seen at all times.

To his credit, Carpenter conveys the story in an interesting pseudo Tarantino/Ritchie fashion, but this does not make up for lost ground. The parts of the movie that were supposed to be the frightening got a sigh from the audience, and the one-liners were only funny because of their relative obscurity and absurdity. The movie ends with a gratuitous shot of Henstridge waking up and walking across the room in her military issued baby blue tank top and panties.

Some praise must go to the risk Carpenter took with this movie, and we must thank him for finally bringing Ice Cube and Pam Grier on the same screen.

It’s ridiculous how everything is done wrong in this movie, perhaps, in all of its pitiable grandeur, this movie can be genuinely entertaining, though not in the way Carpenter intended. If nothing else, this movie can be classified as a comedy, as I know it will bring a smile to your face.