It's been said before but it bears repeating; Hollywood tends to avoid the innovative and go with what they know. You see it over and over again: A spate of summer blockbusters that all have the same theme. There was the rogue meteor year (Armageddon and Deep Impact), the 'fake reality year' (Dave TV and the Truman Show) and most recently the Mars mission year. Unfortunately, this most recent example of the phenomenon is represented by two films with little if any merit. Neither Mission to Mars nor Red Planet was met with critical and box office success, which is a shame given the great potential, these films had.
Red Planet has all sorts of plot devices. There's a robot on the rampage, a stranded crew seeking rescue from the planet's surface, an environmental mystery, a love story and a murder cover up. It has fantastic special effects, a great musical score, lots of great sound effects and an all star cast. But it isn't the things that Red Planet has that are its shortcoming. Of much greater import are the things it lacks including a coherent plot, engaging performances and any sense of audience engagement. The producers of this film would have been well served to spend some of their lavish budget on little things like, oh, an acting coach, a script editor and perhaps even a director (Red Planet is Antony Hoffman directorial debut and judging by the final product he should probably keep his day job.)
As you've probably guessed by now I didn't really get much out of Red Planet. The film was so vacuous that summarizing the story line (what little there is) is probably a waste of time. If you see this film you'll get the gist of it within the first five minutes or so anyway. So, without further ado here's the part of the review you're probably most interested in reading anyway:
On the technical side of things Red Planet couldn't be much better. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is struck from a near pristine version of the film. It's beautifully saturated, has exemplary contrast, deep blacks, pure whites and only the slightest hint of digital artifacting due to edge sharpening. The computer-generated effects look particularly good and integrate well with the background elements.
Red Planet features a very aggressive Dolby 5.1 audio mix. The front sound stage is very broad and features plenty of left/right panning. The surrounds are quite active with both panned effects and ambient sounds. The LFE track is solid as well, delivering a wealth of thumps and bumps without getting too boomy. The music track is pleasant to listen to and the dialogue is always crisp and clear. I couldn't detect any major flaws in the sound elements.
If I had enjoyed the movie more I might have been disappointed by the lack of extras on this release but as it is I'm fairly indifferent. The only supplemental content is a collection of deleted scenes totaling about fifteen-minutes runtime. The bulk of this footage is just more of the same so don't think you're going to get some great insight into the movie making process by watching them. Notably, the deleted scenes are placed on a single video track with no ability to jump to a particular scene. You have to watch them all back to back. There is no theatrical trailer included.
To my way of thinking Red Planet was just a colossal waste of time and money. Of course your mileage may vary but if you're interested in the film you'd be best served to and rent first. My recommendation, therefore, is: Rent It.