review for Mission to Mars on AllMovie

Mission to Mars (2000)
by Karl Williams review

One gripping, mid-film sequence mounted with the optical dazzle of director Brian De Palma at his inspired best isn't enough to keep this turgid science fiction drama afloat when its third act goes as haywire as the titular space mission. As with many of De Palma's cinematic failures, the central malfunction of Mission to Mars is a script that misfires in tone and fails to pay off in the finale. While a dangerous space walk at the story's midpoint contains all of the flair for suspense expected from the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired director, a limp, even silly climax cribbed from the more successful Contact (1997) invokes howls of derisive laughter instead of the wide-eyed wonder for which the film's producers obviously hoped. A mix of special effects that swing pendulum-like from impressive to cheap-looking and a muddled set-up that obscures character motivations add up to a badly botched and fatuous effort at sci-fi storytelling.