The Curiosity safely landed on Mars this weekend, bringing hope back to a lagging NASA program. In honor of this, and with a small amount of my own hope that Hollywood will re-think its anti-Mars stance, here are 5 movies about Mars.
1) “Total Recall” (1990): This camp classic is one of the few movies I can stand Arnold Schwarzenegger in, and that’s because he is not even the weirdest thing about this film. But behind the creepy stomach baby mutant, the three-breasted prostitute, the brain bug, and Sharon Stone’s frizzy hair there’s a taut thriller about a man trying to piece together his identity. Unfortunately, Hollywood has remade it as a gritty scifi action flick, proving that the filmmakers completely missed the point of the first film. (Hint: it’s the mutant stomach baby.) The reboot doesn’t even go to Mars!
2) “The War Of The Worlds” (1953): Perhaps the best-known version of the H.G. Wells classic is Orson Welles’s famous broadcast, but this movie is no slouch. The special effects may have aged a bit, but it has just enough Cold War paranoia for that authentic ’50s charm. (The 2005 version again left out Mars, further proving that Hollywood discriminates against Martians.)3) “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” (2001):Anime doesn’t usually make it on these lists, but this film is the exception because it’s just so damn good. Part detective story, part star-crossed romance, part scifi epic, part surrealist comedy, and part pandemic thriller, this film juggles a lot of different inspirations and spins them into a stylish neo-noir set in the perpetual red dusk of Mars. It’s a good watch even if you don’t like anime. And, incidentally, this is the movie that made me want a corgi, if only because I thought they were hyper-intelligent mutants capable of bovine communication.
4) “John Carter” (2012): Nobody saw this movie, which is a pity because it’s actually a fun and visually interesting adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic. The film was directed by Andrew Stanton of “Finding Nemo” fame, who breathed unexpected humor into an almost 100-year-old story. (Tangent: Does anybody else find it weird that science fiction, a genre we inherently think of as “in the future,” is 100 years old?) Disney removed the words “on Mars” from the title in the belief that Mars doesn’t sell tickets, but they marketed the film so poorly that they proved themselves right for the wrong reasons. And so continues Hollywood’s misplaced disdain for Mars.
5) “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians” (1964): Okay, so Hollywood might have a point with this one. I can’t even begin to describe it accurately, so here’s a tagline: “SEE: The Martians Kidnap Santa! Santa’s North Pole Workshop! The Fantastic Martian Toy Factory! Earth Kids Meeting with Martian Kids! Space-ship Journey from Earth to Mars! Santa Turn Mars-Robot Into a Mechanical Toy!” Bonus if you watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.
So there you have it, 5 magnificent Martian movies. We can only guess what the Curiosity might discover, but chances are it won’t be Santa fighting guys with TV antennas on their heads. So until we actually colonize Mars, watch one of these and show Hollywood we still believe in the Red Planet. (The actual planet, not the movie. The movie is terrible.)