This question has been bugging me for a while now: Why aren’t there more good SF movies about Mars? I mean, there are plenty of good SF books about Mars, dating at least back to Burroughs. Heinlein wrote Red Planet, one of my favorites, and there are many stories set on the Red Planet — including my own Martian Knights — right up to the present day. But movies (and even TV), has been lacking in the fictional Mars department. Now, I’m talking about stories set on Mars, not Martians coming to Earth — so that rules out things like War of the Worlds and Mars Needs Women. And, yes, I’ll grant you that the Martian Chronicles was pretty good, as were the Mars sequences in Babylon 5. But, for all the awe and interest inspired by Mars over the years, you’d think there’d be more Martian movies.
Okay, recently, we’ve had Doom, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and Ghosts of Mars. The first didn’t have much Mars in it, the second could have been set anywhere, and the third was just a red version of 2001 with some pseudo-science thrown in. Carpenter’s movie at least had some mood, though it was really mostly a zombie film. Before that, Total Recall springs to mind, though much of that was set on earth and/or underground.
I guess what I’m really missing is the awe and mystery of Martian exploration, or maybe even an interesting Martian-Chronicles-like view of what life on Mars might be like. Maybe I’m looking for somewhat better-filmed versions of the Mars flicks from the 50s and 60s. Angry Red Planet is still high on my Martian faves. I also like Rocketship XM, and I recently spent a bit of time digging up Horrors of Mars (a.k.a. Wizard of Mars) on DVD. For all it’s cheese, I kindof like HoM better than most of the recent flicks (even though it seemed a bit classier in B&W on an old TV). Which brings me to what might be the best of the ones I know, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a well-produced and at times plausible journey to the Red Planet. At least, plausible for the time.
And maybe that’s what’s wrong. We now know so much about Mars, that maybe the mystery and excitement of going there — and finding lost races and hidden secrets — is gone. Maybe Hollywood doesn’t think there’s any interest left in the dry red ball of dust. Maybe the practical considerations have swept away the flights of fancy. But I hope not. I really would like to see a fun (if not entirely factual) Mars movie. Maybe some day they’ll get A Princess of Mars into production. (Maybe they’re waiting for all the Burroughs copyrights to expire.)
Or maybe, someday, someone will ask me to write a screenplay. I have this great idea for a story about love and war and cyborgs and . . . well, if you’ve read Martian Knights you might have an idea where I’m going.
I wonder, though. Maybe there just isn’t the interest for space exploration that there was when I was a kid — around the time we landed on the Moon. (And don’t even get me started about the lack of Moon movies!) Maybe going to distant planets and finding strange lifeforms isn’t as tantalizing as it was back then — though there have certainly been plenty of TV shows tackling the subject (Star Trek, Stargate, etc.). Or maybe the subject isn’t “big enough” for movies any more. Personally, I just watched Solaris (the original) and Horrors of Mars and I’m ready for a good movie about exploring the Red Planet — or any foreign planet that George Lucas hasn’t laid claim to.
What do you think? Is there some great Mars movie I’ve missed? What are your faves? I await your comments on my blog. See you there!