John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars

 (1,808)4.91 h 38 min2001X-RayR
Mars, 2176 AD. Long colonized by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. 640,000 people now live and work at far-flung outposts all over Mars, mining the planet for its abundant natural resources. But one of those mining operations has uncovered a deadly mother lode: a long-dormant Martian civilization whose warriors, now unleashed and apparent..
John Carpenter
Charlotte CornwellIce CubeNatasha Henstridge
Science FictionHorror
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Jason StathamPam GrierClea DuvallJoanna CassidyIce Cube
Sandy King
Screen Gems
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Foul languagesexual contentsmokingsubstance useviolence
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4.4 out of 5 stars

1808 global ratings

  1. 66% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 12% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Kindle CustomerReviewed in the United States on March 2, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Good Old-Fashioned Pulp Science Fiction Romp---Bring the Popcorn!
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I actually enjoyed this one.
And I didn't expect to. I gave it a pass when it first came our because my friends who had seen it said it was awful.
The critics were saying it was awful.
Everybody seemed to find fault with it (and, to be honest, there is fault to be found).
Some rag on the Special Effects, some on John Carpenter's soundtrack, some complain there is too much hand to hand fighting.
None of this bothered me when I finally watched it.
I mean, the Special Effects weren't that bad, Anthrax, Buckethead, and John Carpenter gave us a driving soundtrack, and the hand to hand combat is to be expected when one is fighting a reincarnated warrior species who seem to be really into hunting heads as prizes of war.
It has some of the flavor of Escape From New York, a dash of the humor of Big Trouble in Little China, and more than a hint of inspiration from the pulp magazines of yore like Weird Tales, and Jungle Adventures and so forth. What I am saying is that the spirits of Talbot Mundy, Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Harold Lamb are alive and well in this story.
It was a delight to watch.
Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, and Jason Statham make a pretty decent team along with Clea Duvall and Liam Waite.
Pam Grier isn't on screen a lot but she makes her presence felt when she is.
And as for Joanna Cassidy...well, what can one say about an actress who has played everything from a Replicant in Blade Runner !1982) to T'Pol's mom on Star Trek Enterprise?
She manages to keep busy.and she is always engaging to watch.
I recommend this one.
14 people found this helpful
ProvidentialReviewed in the United States on May 14, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Bad Movie
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Ghosts of Mars is a decent popcorn action movie, but it's a bad movie on basically every level. If you don't mind seeing something aggressively stupid just to see some explosions, this one's for you.

The setup: Pointless. Carpenter throws a ton of ideas at the wall, like apparently Mars is a matriarchal society now, but this doesn't matter at all to the plot. This movie only takes place on Mars to explain why Carpenter was filming in the desert with hilariously empty sets. The bulk of the movie takes place in 2 rooms and on one street. The entire rest of the film comprises about 3 rooms and one more outdoor area. That's it. All the setup, all the attempts at world building, and you're just staring at a handful of people handing out in a room for most of the movie.

The plot: Zombies. Again, there's an attempt at world building, but this is a bog standard plot. A paramilitary team investigate a derelict compound, and it turns out zombies have murdered the locals. The team fight off the zombies when they're not busy infighting. There's also something about Ice Cube being a really famous criminal.

So why would I watch this? So far my description probably seems really boring. But then Ice Cube throws hand grenades at space zombies. That's the real reason to watch this film. Natasha Hensridge (of "Species" fame) does some spinning kicks at the zombie. Jason Statham and Pam Greer are on the zombie team. It's a star-sudded cast with a heavy metal soundtrack. Some of the big action set pieces are a lot of fun, but there's never very intelligent. People run in a direction, zombies attack them. They turn around because John Carpenter only had the one street to shoot on, and now they have to shoot their way through the zombies again. That happens a few times in the film.

But that sounds awesome. If "Ice Cube blows up zombies" interests you, definitely give this film a spin. But that's it. The worst part for me is that the leader of the Martian zombies is probably supposed to be screaming at his minions in Martian, but Carpenter never hired a language coach. So the guy just makes baby talk "Gah-gah rah-rah" sounds menacingly at the camera. Most viewers laugh out loud rather than being intimidated. The sets are cheap, the locations are few, the script is terrible. The only thing that gets the full treatment are the explosions - and they are glorious.

Overall: A totally forgettable popcorn action movie. See it for the explosions and Ice Cube's one liners. Not for the script.
5 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on December 8, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Yeah it's cheesey but so what Its like an old exploitation flick
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Ghost Of Mars was a horror/sci-fi flick by John Carpenter where a small group of police officers led by Pam Grier go to an isolated mining town to pick up an infamous criminal played by Ice Cube only to find “ghosts” of an ancient civilization of Mars have turned people into psychotic killers. The story is about the police trying to survive. The movie is infamous for temporarily ending Carpenter’s career because it was such a flop at the box office.

The movie was never going to win any awards for style or substance because it’s just like an old time exploitation movie where crazy people dressed like they came out of the Road Warriors series run around trying to kill the police. That being said, if you accept for what it is it’s pretty good. The movie is action packed from almost the start.
4 people found this helpful
Wes BurgessReviewed in the United States on June 30, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Some light-hearted scary fun.
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Ghosts of Mars (2001) is a fun futuristic science fiction story. I think it poses the question: “Do we have a savage nature locked inside us, waiting to get out?”
I won’t spoil the film by telling you all the details, but I’ll tell you just enough to see if you will like this film and a little extra to help you enjoy it a little more. Mars is a giant mining community, run by military police, and successful until weird deaths begin to occur. Savage killers appear from nowhere, and the police have a battle on their hands with tribal warriors who will give no quarter. The good guys must meet the enemy on their own terms, despite scary primitive behavior and the usual friction between two groups who want to be in control. All this takes place within a red desert, with scarlet clouds, blood-red moon, and among friends who might turn into your worst enemies at any time.
The box says that spirits of ancient dead Martians possess human bodies to fight against planetary invaders — sorry, but that sounds absurd. I don’t think the enemy is a bunch of phony dead Martian spooks — but it all make sense if we are battling our own dark inner selves. See what you think:
A sealed tomb is opened despite warnings and a deadly contamination (like a virus) comes out. When people contact the disease, they immediately fall into a primitive prelanguage culture, with tribal warfare; battle chants; ritual sacrifices; fetish art; fierce tribal masks; face paint; body art with scarification, fierce tooth filing & piercing; and loyalty to the strongest, fiercest tribal leader. The tribal features are very similar to what we see in primal human cultures on the Earth. But wait, how did this human cultural stuff get to Mars?
Karl Jung cataloged thousands of examples of evocative symbolism, creative primitive art, and world music that were common to all cultures (and very similar between prehistoric Native American, African, and Asian cultures). Jung called the cultural material we all share the “collective unconscious,” but he had no way to explain what it was or where it came from.
But what if the collective unconscious was buried deep in our primeval genetic code? What if our essential tribal essence could be released by a viral assault on our DNA?
Whether you go in for my complicated genetic plot or not, Ghosts of Mars is a fun and entertaining movie, that has unique stuff, like:
1. A matriarchal culture, where women police/soldiers are in control.
2. A battle with police and crooks fighting on the same side.
3. A conflict between high-tech soldiers and primitive warriors.
4. A sly sense of humor from complex character interactions.
5. A chance to see Buckethead practicing in the Special Features
JOHN CARPENTER was 53 when he co-wrote and directed Ghosts of Mars (2001) — it was his last major film until 2010. It was originally entitled Escape from Mars, continuing the Snake Plissken saga after the disaster of Escape from L.A.
ICE CUBE (Boyz in the Hood, Anaconda) — his character was changed from Snake Plissken to Desolation Williams. Cube later said, “John Carpenter directed it but they really didn't have the money to pull the special effects off." By the way, the three dots next to his right eye are just moles.
JASON STATHAM (Fast and Furious etc., Transporter etc., The Expendables, Spy) was originally slated to play Ice Cube’s role until his character was changed to police officer Jericho Butler. In the movie you see his first screen kiss.
PAM GRIER (Coffy, Foxy Brown), gave her usually tough acting job, portraying police commander Helen Braddock. Originally a backup singer for Bobby Womack, she fought cervical cancer into remission.
JOANNA CASSIDY plays Dr. Whitlock, who started the nightmare. Cassidy was the snaky replicant dancer (NEXUS-6 N6FAB61216) who attacked Deckard at Taffey’s bar.
NATASHA HENSTRIDGE (Species I, II, III), played police officer Melanie Ballard. She replaced Courtney Love at the last minute when Love’s boyfriend’s ex-wife drove over her foot. Michelle Yeoh, Famke Janssen, and Franka Potente turned down the role.
CLEA DuVALL (The Faculty, Virtuality, Little Witches) played rookie officer Bashira Kincaid, who is busy sucking up to Pam Grier for advancement. She did little in this movie.
RICHARD CETRONE (Army of the Dead, Man of Steel, Thor, The Scorpion King, The Time Machine) played the 6 ft 3 in tribal leader, nicknamed “Big Daddy Mars.”
PETER JASON (Escape from L.A., Mortal Combat, Village of the Damned, Prince of Darkness, They Live) played McSimms, the long-suffering conductor of Train 74 Yankee.
CHARLOTTE CORNWELL, John le Carré’s sister, was the narrator.
MUSIC: John Carpenter wrote and performed most of the film’s music with Buckethead (Brian Patrick Carrol), Anthrax, Stevie Vai, Elliot Easton, and Robin Finck.
1. Ghosts of Mars was filmed entirely at night .
2. The film was shot in a New Mexico gypsum mine loaned by the Native American Nation of Pueblo Zia. The pure white gypsum was dyed with food coloring to create the red Martian landscape.
3. One of the Heads on a Stake looked like Harry Jay Knowles. Pam Grier’s Head on a Stake was really her, in a painful, complex effects harness.
Ice Cube runs away with the film. His brooding, thoughtful, deliberate performance radiates power and reveals him to be an angry man who just wants to be left alone. When the Cube is off-screen, Pam Grier’s magnetic acting powers the film. And the main villain, Richard Cetrone, creates a character who is truly fearsome.
Unfortunately, the weak link in this film is Natasha Henstridge. The scenes where Henstridge beats up huge criminals and kicks Cube’s butt, are just not believable. Apparently, she came on set at the last minute, refused to do her exercises, then pooped out and stopped production for a week with exhaustion. Off-screen, we can see her studying her lines. I get the impression that she quarreled with John Carpenter, who seems like a very easy-going guy.
Whatever the reason, Ghosts of Mars was a flop at the box office, making only $14 million against its $28 million budget. Carpenter was discouraged and didn’t make another feature film for 10 years.
I really like this film for its high concept, fast action, interesting characters, and humor. If you watch Ghosts of Mars expecting to have some light-hearted scary fun, you won’t be disappointed. Just pick one of the characters and experience the film through their eyes, and you will know what I mean. I suggest that you get the Blu-ray for the improved wide-screen vistas, close-ups, and music.
I hope this review was really helpful.
3 people found this helpful
KrenzzlerReviewed in the United States on July 10, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Underrated movie that's a lot of fun
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The movie's just fun. It tries to do this thing where the story is told out of order from the perspectives of different characters. Like, while you were doing that, I was doing this, kind of thing. Whether it was a good idea or not is going to depend on the viewer, but I didn't mind it. There's a pretty fat plot hole in the beginning (which I'll mention way lower marked "spoiler") that will make you go "well, why didn't they just do this??". Again, I can see this being a deal breaker for some, but honestly, the rest of the movie is just pure fun. I really enjoyed the action, the humor, and the idea of the enemies our main characters have to fight. It's not really thought provoking or anything, but generally it's just a fun action movie with very John Carpenter vibes right from the start. Definitely something to fire up if you're bored looking for a fun flick to watch.

*Plot hole spoiler*
So the team is tasked with transporting a prisoner back to the city from the little mining town via a train. They arrive at the town and are told that it's going to take 3 hours to TURN THE TRAIN AROUND... and that they'll be back then to pick up the team and the prisoner. Why the F did they not just turn around, and pick him up on the way back?? Would have saved so much trouble, and probably no would would have died. Aside from that, nothing else really stood out as a super obvious plot hole. I'm sure there's a lot to nit pick, but for the most part I had a lot of fun with it.
3 people found this helpful
Mark C.Reviewed in the United States on January 1, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Zenu Would Approve . . . Me, not so Much
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So, it's not the worst movie ever made; but it's pretty bad. And having watched it all the way through once, I would not do so again. At root, much of the problem is that the movie seems to suffer an identity crisis: Is it "dramatic-sci-fi-serious" (a la "Attack of the Clones" (2002)), "comic book fantasy drama" a la "Sin City" (2005), or some mish-mash of both?

On the drama-serious side, the dialogue between the humans all take place in that jocular, fratty vernacular that has been the stock-in-trade of police procedurals since the days when "Hill Street Blues" was playing on the TV machine. And, if you need to be reminded, the plot of this movie is about a couple of cops traveling to a Martian mine to pick up a bad guy and bring him to justice. To that end, the relationship between Ice-Cube (the bad guy) and Henstridge (the cop) in particular seems geared to remind us over-and-over-again that "we" are siblings under the skin who look out for each other--another cop-show theme favorite. More generally, most of the actors in this movie walk around the studio set, sorry, "Mars, at all times with a chiseled-jaw expression that lets you know that things are really super serious and they REALLY need to talk to your manager. Like pronto.

On the comic book side of the equation, the dialogue rarely rises above the insipid; which is OK, since the humans are battling aliens that all look like cast-offs from "Mad Max;" a sort of mid-80s mish-mash of heavy-metal Alice Cooper lads in hockey gear and "Hellraiser" types with torches and sticks. The effect is less frightening than cartoonish, which I have to believe was intentional given the budget. And the action sequences feel similarly staged for a comic book world; set to the pumped stylings of the Carpenter-Anthrax collaboration that, again, would be more at home on your Xbox console than a 2.35:1 film screen.

In the end, the main problem for this viewer was that I found it impossible to really care about any of the characters or what was happening to them. Ice Cube and Henstridge were both woefully miscast, IMHO. (Mr. Cube cannot act. Period. But he gets a pass in this movie, as he was cursed by the writers with a stereotype that should have been buried in 1985: the street-wise black kid with a bad attitude but a heart of gold. What little he is given to say is so insipid I feel bad for him.) And Hentsridge was hired for some rather obvious reasons, none of which relate to her dramatic abilities. Otherwise, she has exactly two expressions: "scowly face" white lady and "that's cute" face white lady. Rounding things out, Statham can act; he was just not given any reason to do so in this movie. And the other characters drift in and out of the action so frequently it makes commenting on their roles impossible.

Carpenter gave us three of the best horror movies ever made in the space of five years. I'm not sure what the plan was here with this singular contribution. But, then, I'm not convinced he knows either. (The whole thing about free-floating Martian ghosts that attach to humans and make them go bonkers sounded a great deal like Scientology and the whole body-thetans business, but maybe that's a mere coinkydink . . . )
One person found this helpful
E. BeckstromReviewed in the United States on September 29, 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
A fun, underrated Carpenter flick
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An underrated Carpenter flick. I can see why mainstream viewers might not like this movie - I myself think poor decisions were made with makeup and alien design. However, it is still a fun action movie, with some clever dialogue, and fun character interactions (the latter being one of the hallmarks of Carpenter's work).

The film also features excellent editing through which Carpenter and his editor create a compelling sense of time passing in the story. For example, clever dissolves create interesting time compressions - e.g., characters begin walking down a passage and a quick dissolve later they are seen reaching the end of the passage; whereas in most movies a standard cut would have been used to compress time. The movie also makes interesting use of flash backs to show what characters A and B were doing in one location after we've been showed what characters C and D were doing at that moment in another location. The flash backs are fairly brief, and this technique combined with other clever editing helps create suspense as well as a certain pace and a compelling sense of events unfolding in a very specific manner which is reminiscent of other Carpenter films, in particular Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, and Prince Of Darkness.

I did not particularly like Mars the first time I watched it, but upon my second viewing a few years later I now realize I had been too dismissive. I'd been hoping for another The Fog, The Thing, or In The Mouth Of Madness instead of viewing Mars on its own merits. Is it as effective as these other movies? No, but that's beside the point. No filmmaker has a portfolio consisting of only masterpieces (not even Hitchcock or either Kurosawa, Akira or Kyoshi). Especially for Carpenter fans, or those who appreciate what a talented independent filmmaker can do with a small budget, Ghosts of Mars is well worth viewing, and certainly in my own case worth viewing again.
8 people found this helpful
WALTReviewed in the United States on April 30, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
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