Red Planet Mars is a science-fiction film that is not so much about the mysterious planet as it is about those who think they are receiving signals from it and even then, it goes even further. Though it is not necessarily a completely unique picture, the movie does mix a little religion and Red Scare into its story, thus featuring at least two things that are keenly at odds with each other, that being faith and science. Even then, there is not so much of the latter as there is of the former and when one begins watching the picture, they will be expecting one thing and instead be getting the other, not to mention a few mentions of those who live in the former Soviet Union.
When it comes down to it, more than anything, the movie is all about belief and not in aliens or little green men, but something bigger than humanity, something greater. Everyone wants to believe that there is something out there that might be responsible for what troubles them, what makes them happy or sad and so on and that is not a bad thing. People want to believe that there is more to this life than the situation they find themselves in and would rather pray to the unknown for a solution rather than taking it upon themselves. All of this comes into play when an enemy agent hijacks the signal that Peter Graves and company have received and starts to dupe the people of the world, making them think that the answers to all they want to know lies on Mars. What makes this picture even more interesting is the fact that writers Anthony Veiller and John L. Balderston take this amalgam of science-fiction and faith and factor in talk of the Russians making this some strange Red Scare type of picture on top of everything else. As weird as it sounds, it is somewhat fascinating at times, sometimes a little dreary and sometimes ridiculous, but it does make for interesting viewing and the cast sells it well, ultimately being a very dramatic and captivating film.
There might not be any aliens present and that is a shame, nor any flying saucers or lasers or anything associated with the genre common for this era and that too seems a little sad, but Red Planet Mars and those involved tried to do something a little different and to their credit, they did a good job. It may not be the best science-fiction movie ever made, but it gets extra points for being creative and keeping its audience watching.
3 out of 5