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Ghosts of Mars

Starring: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge
Director: John Carpenter
Genre: Horror
Year: 2001
Rating: 1 / 5

Bad films come in all shapes and sizes, and it is a terrible sin to assume that all bad films are alike. Some such films are merely devoid of substance and lack a coherent plot and competent acting. These films are a chore to sit through, and they are unredeemable to the core. Other films, however, clearly aspire to be something more. Their plots are full of such preposterous leaps that laughter is the only answer. These films usually employ "name" actors who appear to be doing little more than cashing a paycheck. Yet, for some reason, these films entertain. Instead of laughing with them, we are laughing at them, and this is an accomplishment in and of itself. In this and this alone, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars succeeds.

In the not-too-distant future, humans have colonized Mars. While the planet is years away from being livable, select individuals are preparing the planet for eventual mass arrivals. The matriarchal society appears to consist of one sizable central city, with small mining towns scattered across the barren landscape. These towns are connected by a rudimentary rail system and appear to be little more than run-down Western cities. This world is the home of Desolation Williams (Ice Cube), a small-time criminal targeted by the administration as a murderer and a serious troublemaker.

Police Officer Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) and her crew are charged with escorting their infamous prisoner back from a remote mining outpost. We are told this by Melanie, who is relaying her tale to her superiors in flashback form. It seems that the mission did not go as planned, thanks to some unwelcome visitors. When Melanie's group arrives to acquire their captive, the town is abandoned. A sweep of the town reveals decapitated bodies, heads propped on stakes, and a few strange natives. It soon becomes apparent that if anyone is to survive, everyone will have to work together - including Desolation himself.

Director John Carpenter cannot seem to figure out what type of movie he wants to make, and that may be one of the chief failings of Ghosts of Mars. Part western, part horror, and part science fiction, the film plays like a mismatched collage of all three. The horror parts are downright sophomoric, highlighted by Carpenter's "creepy" score. Natasha Henstridge, subbing for Courtney Love (who was to have played the lead) is bland and unexciting, belonging instead with her Maximum Risk co-star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Ice Cube, however, is rather amusing, as he does not seem to take himself or the script very seriously. Beware of the flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks - I kid you not! - for they might be able to actually convince you that the entire movie is but a dream.


Ice Cube..........Desolation Williams
Natasha Henstridge..........Melanie Ballard
Jason Statham..........Jericho Butler
Clea DuVall..........Bashira Kincaid

Certification: Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 105 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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