Red Planet Blu-ray Review
Red Planet comes to Region Free US Blu-ray with a very-good-though-not-perfect 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. I know that the movie is only a little over ten years old, but I was still surprised that it turned out this good on the format (after all, look at how bad they got titles like Gladiator wrong first time around), particularly since it isn’t exactly a top-of-the-chart back catalogue release. Hell, even the now-dated special effects stand up for the most part, with only a couple of moments with the artificial intelligence robot looking too unnaturally ‘animated’. Detail is generally very good throughout, with no overt signs of edge enhancement, nor any excessive DNR, and only a couple of brief moments have any kind of noticeable softness. There’s also a nice layer of grain pervading the piece, giving it that suitably filmic veneer. The colour scheme is mainly dictated by the clinical ships interiors and the dusty red-orange Martian landscape (I think it was actually the Nevada desert), although a couple of early ship-based moments do have some adventurous lighting – strong blues and UV tones, the likes of which you’d see on CSI – which occasionally threaten to bleed. Black levels are reasonably strong and effective during the night moments, although there is a hint of crush. Overall this is a very good video presentation which just lacks that 3D pop and shimmer of newly-minted perfection to earn it a demo quality badge.
On the aural front we get an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which works wonders with the material even if, once again, it never quite reaches the heights of demo quality excellence. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, despite the intentionally muffled radio communications, largely dominating the frontal array at all the relevant moments in the movie. Effects are fairly good, not always wholly nuanced, but certainly noteworthy in several more dramatic scenes where an effective atmosphere is created within which to enjoy the particular setpiece that is on offer. The zero grav fire is particularly impressive. Less so is the score, which flips from perfectly acceptable (if forgettable) tones to early-nineties-esque screeches for the AI robot moments. Seriously, with Demolition Man coming up for release any day, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some very similar tones used there – only 7 years earlier! Still, this is hardly a problem with the track, which presents the score – for good or for bad – extremely well over the surrounds. And with a few moments of thundering LFE, as well as some general depth running throughout, this is a very good track indeed, certainly, like the video, worthy of an upgrade.
All we get here is the original Theatrical Trailer and a fairly hefty set of Deleted Scenes, which start out as vaguely interesting, but soon get pretty mundane. Although there are 8 scenes, and they total some 14 minutes, it’s far from all new footage – the majority of them being complete scenes from the final film, with just a few seconds of new stuff added back into them. Still, you can’t help but wonder whether this kind of material – largely character development – would have been the start of making a better film out of this lacklustre end product...
2000 was clearly not a good year for Mars-based movies. And they made two of them. Red Planet is a sci-fi action thriller that has all the potential to be excellent – with plenty of key elements stolen from other, better movies; and some interesting philosophical themes about faith and religion – but it just fails to follow through on any single one of the intriguing story strands that it sets up. Not the murderous crew member, suffering under the pressures of the hostile environment, who could have played out like the volatile Michael Biehn character from The Abyss; not the ‘if God created Mars’ musings, or random interjections about science versus faith; and not the tense, how many of us can actually get off the planet subplot. Not, the only strand that made it through this movie in one piece was the irritating A.I. robot gone wild (literally, as it resembles a wild cat), which unfortunately carries all the way through to the end. Considering everything that was hinted at during the fairly length opening setup, it’s a shame that the end result is just so... meh.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get very good video and audio indeed, and, whilst there are no significant extras to speak of, a handful of deleted scenes is better than nothing, and probably something that fans are going to be interested in checking out. If you are a fan, then this is probably an easy buy – cheap and pretty. But if you’re a newcomer, you have to seriously weigh up your options. If you can live without seeing either of the two bad Mars movies that were made in 2000, then I’d hold off on even giving this a rental. It’ll come back round on TV sooner or later. It’s not that it is a bad movie, just a generally quite disappointing one.
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