Red Planet is a 2000 Technicolor science fiction film directed by Antony Hoffman, starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Val Kilmer. It was released on November 10, 2000.
In 2056 AD, Earth is in ecologic crisis as a consequence of pollution and overpopulation. Meanwhile, automated interplanetary missions have been seeding Mars with atmosphere-producing algae for twenty years as the first stage in terraforming the planet. When the oxygen quantity produced by the algae is inexplicably reduced, the crew of Mars-1 investigates, and must continue the mission of terraforming the planet for human colonization.
The team is composed of Quinn Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), an agnostic geneticist, Bud Chantillas (Terence Stamp), an aging philosophical scientist and surgeon, systems engineer and "space janitor" Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer), and beautiful, but no-nonsense commander, Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss). Also on board are arrogant pilot Ted Santen (Benjamin Bratt) and terraforming scientist Chip Pettengill (Simon Baker).
Mars 1 arrives on February 5, 2057, but a solar flare disrupts key systems, complicates their orbit and forces Bowman to remain aboard and repair them, while the others land. Their first goal is to locate an automated habitat established earlier on Mars in the Ares Vallis area to manufacture 26 months worth of food and oxygen in preparation for the crew's arrival.
The landing craft is damaged entering the Martian atmosphere, veers off course, and crash-lands far from their landing zone near the habitat. In the process, they lose track of "AMEE"(Autonomous Mapping Exploration and Evasion), a military combat robot re-purposed to serve as their "Mars surface navigator", and Chantillas suffers a ruptured spleen in the crash landing. With limited air, Chantillas is left behind to allow the others to complete the mission.
Back in orbit, Bowman deals with several disasters. She manages to contact Earth, which informs her that Mars-1 will crash on the red planet in 31 hours. However, mission control also believes it can restore engine function for a main engine burn and exit from Mars orbit before this happens.
The disheartened men reach the automated habitat only to find it destroyed. With only minutes of air remaining, the men contemplate death by suffocation. Pettengill and Santen wander away to see as much of Mars as they can before dying. They reach a canyon and await death. Pettengil and Santen argue about the success of the mission and eventually fight, with Pettengill inadvertently pushing Santen over the cliff. Distraught, Pettengill returns to Burchenal and Gallagher to await death and lies about Santen’s fate. Believing that he would die anyway, Gallagher opens his visor and discovers that Mars's atmosphere is thin but breathable. For the moment, the three survivors are safe, though Pettengill is guilt-ridden about Santen’s demise.
Despite the presence of breathable air, they remain stranded on the surface of Mars and are unable to communicate with Bowman. AMEE reunites with the crew, and the three astronauts notice the robot is damaged and try removing its power supply to reserve exclusively for her guidance device, effectively terminating her artificial brain. Perceiving their actions as a threat, AMEE's military programming re-initializes, targeting the men as enemies. It attacks the men, and cripples Burchenal. From then on, the robot stalks the landing party's trek across the Martian surface.
Eventually, Gallagher is able to construct a make-shift radio using parts from the Mars Rover from the Pathfinder mission. With communications restored and only 19 hours left, Bowman instructs the men to reach an old Russian probe 100 km away and use its sample-return system to launch themselves to orbit.
The three men begin the trek and discover patches of algae. However, during the trip, Bowman tells Gallagher that the Mars probe can only hold two people. Pettengill, paranoid about being abandoned, runs away with the radio in the early morning, only to be attacked alone by AMEE, which purposely transmits savage images to the survivors. Pettengill's corpse becomes infested with insect-like creatures feeding on his flesh, which Burchenal calls "nematodes." Burchenal discovers that the insects explode when exposed to flame. Along the way, they reach a large algae-covered field and Burchenal reveals that the insects are native Martian life lying dormant until the algae arrived. The insects eat the algae and excrete oxygen, explaining their volatile physiology. Burchenal retrieves a sample of the Martian life for returning it to Earth, stating that the insects can produce oxygen, which explains the fact that they can breathe, saving but altering the Mars project.
Unfortunately, the insects go into a feeding frenzy and swarm Burchenal when blood drips from an open wound. Burchenal passes his pressure suit’s contents and sample bugs to Gallagher, sacrificing himself by igniting the bugs, burning the algae and much of the region's atmosphere.
Gallagher finally reaches the Mars probe with only 50 minutes left for his launch window. Examining the probe, he finds that there is enough fuel to power the rocket engine, but not enough power in the battery to launch the probe. Gallagher creates a trap for AMEE, disables her, and retrieves its power core, using it to launch his improvised escape module.
Bowman detects the launch and recovers the module; however, Gallagher has lost consciousness. Quickly reviving Gallagher with CPR, the two passionately kiss and celebrate their success in saving Earth.
NOTE: You might need to watch this movie again in the future. Make sure to include Red Planet [Blu-ray] in your movie collection.
Complete credited cast:
Val Kilmer ... Robby Gallagher
Carrie-Anne Moss ... Cmdr. Kate Bowman
Tom Sizemore ... Dr. Quinn Burchenal
Benjamin Bratt ... Lt. Ted Santen
Simon Baker ... Chip Pettengill
Terence Stamp ... Dr. Bud Chantilas
Directed by Antony Hoffman
Produced by Bruce Berman
Written by Chuck Pfarrer