The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday May 7th

Life On Mars Rendered Helpless With B-Movie Humor

"Ghosts of Mars" is the worst type of action movie because it's not bad enough to be funny, yet not interesting enough to hold your attention.

John Carpenter's latest involves a group of cops and dangerous criminals who band together to fight a throng of possessed miners in an attempt to make Mars a safer place to colonize. Unfortunately, the film is narrated through the eyes of Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), who is terminally dull.

Most of the film's redeeming scenes involve Ice Cube blowing stuff up. "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube) plays a misunderstood, angry black man for at least the third time in his young acting career.

He does well in the role, but Carpenter didn't allow him the sense of humor that made his character in "Three Kings" so likable. Instead, he spends the film alternately being pissed off at the oppressive Martian establishment and the freaky goth miners who keep trying to kill him.

Though "Desolation" has his moments, the best characters are definitely the possessed miners. Some mysterious force makes them go crazy and suddenly all the miners start acting and looking like kings of goth rock.

The head bad guy, who was inexplicably named "Big Daddy Mars" in the credits, bore an eerie resemblance to a beefed up Marilyn Manson. This made his battles with Ice Cube seem like a real-life episode of "Celebrity Death Match."

The film would have been much more interesting if more time had been spent on "Desolation" and "Big Daddy Mars." Instead, the audience's attention is drawn to Henstridge, who takes her role as a drug-addicted cop way too seriously.

She could have learned a lesson from previous leads in Carpenter's films -- like Kurt Russell and James Woods -- whose campy performances enhanced their films' B-movie humor.

And if Henstridge can't have fun in a film where she battles against a steroid-enhanced "Antichrist Superstar" look-alike alongside the man who penned classics of West Coast rap such as "Bop Gun" and "It was a Good Day," perhaps she should consider a new line of work.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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