Ghosts of Mars
Apparently, Martian ghosts don't have nail clippers
We've all seen movies so bad that we like them. Maybe its over-the-top violence or a ridiculous plot that keeps us coming back for more. There are times, though, when you know a movie isn't good, but you enjoy it anyway. You can't put your finger on what makes it bad and you can't put your finger on why you like it. That's how I feel about Ghosts of Mars
Directed by John Carpenter, Ghosts of Mars stars Natasha Henstridge (Species, The Whole Nine Yards) as police officer Melanie Ballard and Jason Statham (The Transporter, Crank) as Sgt. Jericho and Ice Cube (Friday, Barbershop) as the famous criminal Desolation Jones. In the 22nd century, Mars has been terraformed, allowing humans to begin colonization the empty planet. Ballard and her small group of officers are transporting their prisoner, Jones, when they discover a mining town deserted, save for a few survivors. We learn that a secret door created by ancient Martians was opened, unleashing the “ghosts” that possessed miners, turning them into blood-thirsty mutant killers. Ballard is possessed by one of the ghosts and sees its memories and motives, before expelling it from her body. Will Ballard be able to defeat the ghosts and warn her superiors of the danger? Will Desolation Jones use this chance to escape or will he stay and fight?
Straight outta Compton
Ghosts of Mars is a movie that had some potential, but just fell flat in so many areas. The acting and dialogue is probably the biggest problem. I know Ice Cube can act and show range, but as Desolation Jones, he has no room to show depth. He's just a thug with a glimmer of morals. Natasha Henstridge is ok, but it does feel like she is forcing her lines at times. The story gets confusing at times with flashbacks within flashbacks that jump around too quickly for the audience to get settled. The movie was shot in New Mexico, a great location choice, but the sets themselves come off as cheap and hokey. They were going for some sort of futuristic feel, but came off more like what people in the 50's thought 2000 was going to look like.
The “ghosts” themselves are intended to be menacing, but just come off as cheap. A friend once described this movie to me as “Ice Cube goes to Mars and fucks up Gwar”. If you don't know the shock metal band Gwar, google them right now. I'll wait. Throw on a little more dirt and blood, and there you have the monsters from Ghosts of Mars. These ghosts don't show much depth either, just a lot of screaming and yelling into the night and then mindless killing. Not that I'm against the mindless killing, in fact, that's probably the best part of the movie. Plenty of blood and decapitation's to fill your heart with gore-y glee, but it would have been nice to see more motivation and emotion in what they were doing.
Who knew Martians had silky and manageable hair?
With all it's flaws, and there are many, Ghosts of Mars is still somewhat enjoyable. Far from John Carpenter's best work, it still had some fun violence and a decent idea. I think given a more realistic approach and a deeper script, this movie could have been among Carpenter's better movies. Unfortunately, it suffers from poor acting, weak dialogue, and an all-around campy feel. Maybe Carpenter can revisit the idea one day and give it the time and effort it deserves.