review for John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars on AllMovie

John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001)
by Patrick Legare review

John Carpenter brings Rio Bravo to deep space in this poorly scripted and surprisingly weak sci-fi imitation of the director's far better 1976 classic, Assault on Precinct 13. In both of the aforementioned films, lawmen find themselves holed up against marauding criminal forces. With Ghosts of Mars, Carpenter takes the idea nearly two centuries into the future, sets it on a heavily colonized and female-dominated Mars, and makes the planet's original inhabitants the bad guys. Unfortunately, the "ghosts" of the title never actually make an appearance. Instead, they possess the living and turn them into self-mutilating killers who want their planet back. The premise holds promise for what could have been a tight, scary, and prototypical Carpenter film, but it doesn't deliver. Co-written by Carpenter and Larry Sulkis, Ghosts quickly glazes over any intriguing story points (more information on the Martians and their Marilyn Manson-like leader would have been nice) and settles into lengthy, '80s-style action sequences as the good guys fire chops, kicks, and unending rounds of ammo at their zombie-like enemies. Worse, the film's narrative is formatted in a flashback style that repeats scenes to set up other flashbacks, stunting any momentum. The cast, led by Natasha Henstridge (Species) and Ice Cube, performs admirably but it doesn't help that they are saddled with uninspired characters who spout some truly bad dialogue. Technically, the special effects and sets are unimpressive by modern standards, failing to take advantage of what could have been highly imaginative settings and creatures.