In space, no one can hear you snore. But should you stumble past your local multiplex and hear a lengthy yawn coming from within, it's likely that a screening of Red Planet is in progress. Yet, while it blows into the UK on a strong breeze of negative word-of-mouth, Red Planet may defy your expectations: it certainly isn't as bad as Brian De Palma's sci-fi turkey, Mission To Mars. But it still suffers from that old chestnut of delivering too little, too late.
The story unfolds at a glacial pace, and while this should provide welcome relief from the testosterone-fuelled antics which have overrun the genre, the result is the opposite. Rather than breathe profundity, Red Planet simply breeds boredom. Essentially, first-time director Antony Hoffman has created a character study about a group of people placed in an untenable situation, but without actually developing the characters, it all becomes a fairly empty exercise. Val Kilmer is never more than a plucky everyman with a cyberwrench. Tom Sizemore is the man of science. Carrie-Anne Moss is the woman who must keep those male egos controlled and her own romantic longings under wraps... You get the idea.
The pace only picks up when a solar storm socks the spaceship, stranding our heroes in a hostile environment where they face an escalating set of complications as they try to survive. The special effects, while not amazing, certainly help; the clunky dialogue, however, does not. And that we never know (or care) who these people really are anyway is the kiss of death.
At least you can say Carrie-Anne Moss does a stand-out job, making the transition from Matrix supporting player, and is unquestionably the woman to watch. But seeing Terence Stamp reduced to Fifth Crew Member status in a dull, expensive B-movie is enough to break your heart.
This latest low-key trip into space is occasionally entertaining, but the odd good performance or mildly impressive effect ain't enough to prevent it from being a slow, empty journey. Still, it could have been worse. It could have been Mission To Mars.