US Release Date: March 31, 2009
Movie: out of
It is the year 2176 (although the cover says 2025), 85% of Mars has been terraformed, and the planet is being colonized. A mysterious force is invading the colonized towns, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Thus sets the stage of John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.
Natasha Henstridge (“Species”) stars as Lt. Melanie Ballard, assigned the task of retrieving detained criminal James “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube) from Shining Canyon Mine to the town of Chryse. Told in flashback, Ballard, who is the sole survivor, recounts the assignment in a discovery hearing, and thus seals the fate of the other main characters before the story begins. Pam Grier plays the team commander, Jason Statham plays the male-chauvinist sergeant with a knack of picking electronic locks, Clea DuVall and Liam Waite are the rookies, and Joanna Cassidy is the science officer who let the evil Martian souls out of their tomb.
Although the flashback story-telling device deflates much of the suspense surrounding the characters, director John Carpenter still manages to build in a few scares and enough camp and action sequences to keep the film fun to watch. The cast is pretty solid, especially Henstridge and Statham, but the weak link is Ice Cube’s performance. Although this was an early role for him, he essentially mumbles his lines and appears stiff and uncomfortable, the only exception being an action sequence when he goes all guns ablazing in a shhotout with the Martians. This is not necessarily one of Carpenter’s better films, but it’s still enjoyable.
Video: out of
Sony’s 1080p AVC transfer is rock solid. This is a film rich in blacks and reds, and this Blu-ray does not disappoint. Flesh tones are accurate, blacks are deep, and there is no bleeding or banding, especially the reds. Film grain is noticeable, giving the disc a nice cinematic look.
Audio: out of
Equal to the video, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is spacious, enveloping, and immersive, with good use of surrounds and frequency response and intelligible dialogue. Carpenter’s pulsing rock score also shines on this track.
Special Features: out of
Most of the special features from the previous 2001 DVD release have been ported over, all in standard definition.
Commentary by John Carpenter and Natasha Henstridge This is a free-flowing commentary, and the two have a lot to say about the making of the film. Carpenter and Henstridge obviously enjoyed working together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s often like eavesdropping on a conversation between two friends.
Video Diary: Red Desert Nights Essentially an assemblage of behind the scenes home movies, this 17 minute featurette chronicles the making of the film on-location at a gypsum mine on an Indian reservation in Pueblo, New Mexico.
Special Effects Deconstruction Running just over six minutes, many of the effects sequences are shown from storyboard, pre-vis, green screen, and finished product stages. Behind the scenes footage is also included from shooting miniatures. Similar to the Video Diary, there are no interviews or narration with the video.
Scoring Ghosts of Mars Behind the scenes footage from the scoring stage with John Carpenter and the musicians of Anthrax. Similar to the Video Diary, there are no interviews or narration with the video.
Previews Sony was kind enough to include trailers for the direct-to-video features Resident Evil: Degeneration and Zombie Strippers.
BD-Live At the time if this review, there was no content available that was specific to Ghosts of Mars. The standard Sony BD-Live interface was all that was available. The good news is that it appears the Sony BD-Live server seems to be getting faster.
Overall: out of
Although not one of John Carpenter’s better efforts, Ghosts of Mars still has enough thrills and action to make it an entertaining experience. Sony has graced this Blu-ray release with great video and audio, and included most of the extras from the DVD, making this a worthy upgrade for fans.
This DVD was reviewed on the following home theater equipment:
- Toshiba 56HM66 DLP HDTV
- Sony Playstation 3 (outputting to 1080i with multi-channel PCM over HDMI)
- Yamaha RX-V563 Home Theater Receiver (in 5.1 configuration)
- Yamaha NS-AP2600 Home Cinema Speaker Package
- Yamaha YST-SW010 subwoofer