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Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts of Mars

Anyone who has followed John Carpenter's career sees that the horror meister has really taken a bite from Hollywood over the last dozen or so years.  His Vampires and Escape from LA never  connected with audiences even with plenty of blood and action and stars like James Woods and Kurt Russell.

Here is the latest, entitled John Carpenter's Ghost of Mars, the scenario of horror and science fiction enlists the infamous red planet.  The impression of action, violence and a rough and ready Ice Cube is a draw for Ghosts of Mars, but nothing from this story of exhumed Martians offers thrills.

Carpenter sets his latest whimsy some 175 years in the future with Mars colonized because of overpopulation on the Earth.  Many of the 600,000 inhabitants are laborers working in remote mining outposts.

The ominous Shining Canyon is where Natasha Henstridge's Lt. Melanie Ballard of the Mars Police has to take "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube) away from and bring him to another city of the red planet.  "Desolation" is a wanted criminal.

The script worked on by Larry Sulkis and Carpenter takes Ballard and her police squad into a ghost town somewhere out of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Ghosts of Mars does offer an intriguing premise which would have worked better if a little humor was injected.

Pam Grier is decent as the hard-edged Commander Braddock early on as the veteran lets us in on her proclivities while Jason Statham (Snatch) exhibits swagger as Jericho and the headstrong Descanso (Liam White) is around the indecisive new cop on the block, Clea Duvall's Bashira.

Some will find the body snapping and limbs flying cool but Carpenter doesn't put enough imagination into the fighting.  And there is a structural pain of looping flashbacks that makes the non-linear plotting become hackneyed.  The dialogue adds to the absurdity; the editing is less than seamless and the ending appears to be an afterthought.

Henstridge does the best with her part exuding sheer determination even if her acting is opaque.  Ice Cube has some proud moments but whatever talents he can provide are mostly dormant.  It would have been nice to see Grier in a sinister world where Carpenter felt at ease using her undaunted intellect.

The director doesn't do much with his matriarchal society and a scary mission to make a compelling "Night of the Living Martians" that exposes Ghost of Mars to be a hollow, pyrotechnic horror show.

Ghosts of Mars

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