Searching for God in Outer Space
Release Date: November 10, 2000
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 114 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Anthony Hoffman
Executive Producer: Charles J. D. Schlissel & Andrew Mason
Writer: Chuck Pfarrer & Jonathan Lemkin
Address Comments To:Barry A. Meyer, CEO
Warner Bros., Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
Val Kilmer stars as Gallagher, a mechanical systems engineer aboard a spaceship headed for Mars. Its mission: find out why Earth’s attempt to transform Mars into a livable, breathable home for the survivors of a crowded, polluted Earth has gone wrong. Oxygen levels on Mars are dropping, the movie tells viewers, even though unmanned spaceflights have melted the icecaps and planted algae.
When the spaceship experiences a really bad solar flare, the captain, a woman named Commander Bowman and played by Carrie-Anne Moss of THE MATRIX, hurriedly dispatches the other five crewmembers, all male, to complete the mission. They survive the landing, barely, and begin to explore why the algae seems to have disappeared and why the biological compound waiting for them there has been demolished as if it were eaten away. Meanwhile, the men have to fight off a menacing robot whose system has switched to military mode after its own crash landing.
Moss, Kilmer and Tom Sizemore as Dr. Burchenal, leader of the biological analysis, give the best performances in RED PLANET, but that’s partly because they are given the most developed characters to play. Moss and Kilmer, as they did in THE MATRIX and BATMAN FOREVER, again show they can play leading roles, and Sizemore, as he did in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, again shows he can play a solid supporting role.
Most interesting of all is the fact that acclaimed actor Terence Stamp plays Chief Science Officer Chantilas, the most experienced astronaut on the ship and a spiritual leader. At one point in the movie, which is repeated, Chantilas says to Kilmer’s Gallagher that he doesn’t think science has all the answers. Chantilas adds that he’s turned to philosophy and is “searching for God.” He says this line more in the sense of knowing who God really is rather than in the sense of wondering whether God exists at all. His words to Gallagher play an important role later on in the movie, although RED PLANET ultimately leaves the existence and identity of God a mystery. In fact, Gallagher gets into an argument with Sizemore’s Burchenal, who doesn’t believe in God at all. Burchenal advises Gallagher to stick with God if he wants, but he’ll place his trust in science and “my Ph.D.’s” Of course, this is a false dilemma, because God created the whole universe. Thus, an honest scientific investigation of how the universe works should not lead to a rejection of God, but to an embrace of Him and His Glory. Hopefully, audiences who see RED PLANET will side with Chantilas and Gallagher’s opinion, not that of the other characters.
Examined carefully, it seems that RED PLANET has a moral worldview with redemptive themes of sacrifice, loyalty, duty, determination, and heroism. This is undercut by some foul language, including one “f” word and a few strong profanities, an obscured nude shot of Commander Bowman in the shower and some other potentially objectionable elements. The movie also accepts the unproven environmentalist ideas that the earth can be destroyed by our current projected levels of pollution and “over-population.”
Finally, although RED PLANET is a well-produced, often exciting and tense, movie with lots of action, it’s predictable at times and contains some cheesy dialogue. Also, the pulse-pounding music and sound effects overpower the drama several times. The filmmakers also seem to suffer from a big trend in too many Hollywood action movies these days, where the images are often more murky, dark and fragmented than they need to be. Instead of following this trend all the time, it would be a relief to see more movies like the fantastic chase scene at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which takes place in daylight and lets viewers actually see what’s going on in the scene.
RED PLANET is an intense, well-produced science fiction movie that casts doubts about the ability of atheism to sustain man and prolong the future. Although it ultimately leaves the existence and workings of God a mystery, two of the movie’s three most positive characters embrace the idea as a distinct possibility. This is unique for a genre that hasn’t always been friendly toward those who believe in some form of theism, much less to those who embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Examined carefully, the RED PLANET has a moral worldview with redemptive themes of sacrifice, loyalty, duty, determination, and heroism, marred by some foul language, brief nudity and some unproven environmentalist notions