NASA MAVEN launch went down on Monday, November 18, joining dozens of other probes and rovers that have gone that way in the last few decades. This time around, the goal is to study the history of Martian climate and discover why Mars has so much Earth Two potential, yet fails to live up to it.
Despite long held beliefs that the planet once was capable of sustaining life, it’s pretty much a red dust ball. We want to know why. After all, we had such great expectations as evidenced in some of the movies we’ve churned out over the years. Here are some of the more ridiculous ones:
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Even close to 50 years ago, you would expect society to know better than to make this Christmas/sci-fi movie mashup featuring Jolly Old St. Nick going head-to-head with a planet of Martians. We suppose the message was nice but the execution was so bad, you’ve got to laugh to keep from crying. And that’s exactly how shows like Mystery Science 3000 and Cinematic Titanic have coped over the years. John Call gives a stirring performance as he of the white beard. A young Pia Zadora stars as Girmar (“girl martian”). Surprisingly, the South Park guys had nothing to do with this.
The message: we’re sure that Mars has life, and they’re probably a lot like us.http://youtu.be/b3ombiYYKZU
Invaders from Mars 1986
It’s important to distinguish the years on this one because there’s actually a pretty decent 1953 version. No, the 1986 version is B-A-D bad. It teams a snotty little brat with a school nurse and a band of US Marines in a fight to the death with the big bad body-snatching baddies from the Red Planet. Ugh.
The message: Anything that isn’t from our world is to be feared. And this message is ditto on our next entry:
It! The Terror From Beyond Space
While the movie itself is fun and entertaining, it’s the continuous idea of Martian life equating to man-killing monsters that makes this one ridiculous. Of course, the film was made before we even made it to the moon, so you can’t fault writer Jerome Bixby and director Edward L. Cahn for their simplistic depiction of extraterrestrial life as a hulking demolition ball.
Mission To Mars
In the B-movies of the past, Martians were often depicted as powerful green beings destined for a conflict with Planet Earth. That was the simplistic view during the Cold War era of the ’50s and ’60s anyway. Fast forward a few decades and the tired trope is this idea that perhaps we came from Mars and that that’s our real home. We are descendants of the little green men, in other words. Mission to Mars, the Brian De Palma flop du jour from 2000 embraced this idea, which continues to show up all too often in short stories, novels, and other sci-fi films. Nice theory, but highly implausible.
The message: Because Mars exists, it must be about us!
Martian insects are nasty little creatures in this 2000 film with a post-Tombstone Val Kilmer taking lead. While the ideas aren’t altogether ridiculous — we’ve seen enough of Mars to know there probably aren’t hidden cities with vast technological achievements at this point, so any life would have to be on an insect or subatomic level — the major problem is in the execution. Unbelievable characters, uneven direction, and just an overall difficult time finding a way to compute Kilmer as astronaut material, lead to this one being a shoo-in for our list of ridiculous Mars movies.
The message: True “Martians” probably won’t look very much like us if they exist at all. One of the more intelligent messages for one of the most poorly entertaining movies.
My Favorite Martian
It’s way too easy to throw stones at bad kids’ movies dealing with the complexities of life on (or in this case, from) Mars, but we’ll go ahead and toss a couple anyway. My Favorite Martian starred Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Daniels in a tale about a marooned Martian on planet Earth. He becomes friends and roommates with a young whippersnapper and from there gets in to various hijinks as he attempts to conceal his identity long enough to repair his ship and make the trip home. He also has retractable antennae. Other than that, he’s just like you and me. Probability — what do you think?
The message: We’re Hollywood and we’re out of ideas, so we’ve remade this marginally successful TV show as a film and stuck the Doc from Back to the Future in it. Seriously, that’s it.
Mars scientists attacked by a vile creature. The Rock goes in and (tries) to kick butt with surprising results. This is just another killer creature on Mars feature, but this time with a whopping 19 percent aggregated score on Rotten Tomatoes. No originality, absurd premise — what more is there to say?
The message: Except for sucking harder, we’re indistinguishable from some of the others on this list. But we were able to get The Rock to take our money, so that’s something.
Trying to cash in with a similar name to that of a popular video game, writer-director Patrick Read Johnson made a film with terribly inept looking aliens, humorless comedy, and a final solution straight from the digestive system of our otherworldly visitors. Classy. Just the way you would envision scientifically and technologically advanced aliens to be.
The message: The aliens mean us no harm.
Ghosts Of Mars
John Carpenter, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Natasha Henstridge — expectations were high on this one until we saw the finished product. Something tells us that even if Mars did have ghosts that could possess human beings, you wouldn’t be able to rid yourself of the problem by nuking them.
The message: How many different ways can we remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers without people actually knowing it’s a remake?
Mars Needs Moms
So they come after Earth’s! The world was not impressed. This 3D motion-capture animated sci-fi comedy flopped hard in its opening week and never recovered. During its disastrous run at the box office, the $150 million production budget recovered only $39 million of its costs.
The message: Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis sure doesn’t make ’em like he used to.
So What Have We Learned?
For starters, we’re either overly optimistic or scared to death about what’s waiting for us on the Red Planet. By now, though, it’s pretty safe to say there isn’t much beyond the dust. Do we still have much to learn about this mysterious place? Of course. But if Hollywood has taught us anything over the years, it’s that we’re not going to learn it from them.
Now that we’ve waded through that sea of strangeness, here’s the launch video of NASA MAVEN. Good luck up there, big guy.