Natasha Henstridge (Species)
Ice Cube (21 Jump Street)
Jason Statham (Spy)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Pam Grier (Jackie brown)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Robert Carradine (Escape From LA)
Marjean Holden (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation)
Rex Linn (Cliffhanger)
Peter Jason (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)
The plot involves a squad from the Martian Police Force doing a prisoner transfer from a mining colony. Mars, it seems, is run by the “Matronage”, a kind of Lillith-Fair dictatorship, which is a neat twist and gives some original zip to the movie. The transfer is quickly forgotten, as some sort of primal ghostly force is possessing the locals and turning them into a blood-crazed cabal of body-pierced mutilation enthusiasts. The throngs are led by a bulked-up Maximum Leader who looks like Marilyn Manson’s steroid-pumped older brother. The cops and criminals join forces with the contents of the Hollywood Gun Shop, and mow down the screaming hordes in an effort to escape.The intriguing setting, the impressive visuals, and some creepy early scenes build up a lot of audience goodwill, which the film then chips away at relentlessly, as if willing itself to mediocrity. The narrative is clumsy, with way too much reliance on flashback. The story itself is primarily told in flashback, which is understandable even if it does reveal too much about what’s about to happen. But do we really need flashbacks within the movie to show us things we’ve already seen? There are also too many pointless camera tricks, such as time-lapse dissolves in scenes that don’t merit them.The only standouts in the cast are Jason Statham as the weary (but horny) sergeant, easily the most tactically competent of the MPF contingent, and Ice Cube as the prisoner whose transfer is in such turmoil. Mr. Cube’s unfocused, pinch-faced rage and dumbfounded bravado are pitch-perfect, and he has all the funniest lines.
Ghosts of Mars will not rank among John Carpenter’s best work but despite its deficiencies I enjoyed it. Carpenter still has it, and when he’s good, he’s very good. Desperate-survival-against-the-murderous-armies has a primal power as a story archetype, and there’s plenty of gun-blazing, head-bashing, flying-buzzsaw-dismemberment fun to be had by all. The music’s pretty good, too. And there’s something about Henstridge and Duvall in black leather SWAT uniforms that just pushes a button somewhere. Maybe it’s just me.