Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars
2001, Screen Gems
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Larry Sulkis

When a train returns on autopilot and all the passengers but one are missing, you know there is a problem, even if it is on Mars. It could all be the fault of one man, the killer James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube), who has a reputation for often being in the action, but never getting convicted. Does James match his reputation, or is he really just "misunderstood?"

Coincidentally James is awaiting pick-up in a jail in Shining Canyon. What is your first clue he didn't decimate the train? He's in jail. Officer Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) has the privilege of taking a team to pick him up. But even before they arrive at Shining Canyon and discover the empty building and headless corpses, we all know there is some other problem lurking there for them. Mystery, suspense, and anticipation are the classic horror stuffings. Will any of them escape Shining Canyon?

John Carpenter, who co-wrote, composed the music, and directed this story, mixed horror with science fiction and action to create what might have been a gripping tale. It is an interesting story with really great sets, and good acting. But in the middle my attention was drifting. Not a good sign. Not gripping. The story is told partially through flashbacks. Flashbacks often kill the forward momentum of the dramatic action and derail the audience's interest.

The action scenes of killing monsters were mostly repetitive shooting - ho, hum. They killed the monsters too easily. The nuclear plant explosion seemed like a contrived plot device (no foreshadowing). A more appropriate solution might even have been something like trying to find the missing elements, as in Final Fantasy, and would have added a lot to a plot that sagged when it should have been picking up more steam than a locomotive. (Wait a few years and rewrite, refilm, and rename it - this could become a sci-fi/horror classic.)

This had the potential for a really good movie, and even though it missed it is still a good movie. I give this one three spotlights out of a possible five for the acting, production design (sets), music, editing, cinematography, story characterization and subplots, costume design, and casting. It carries a PG-13 rating. Enjoy!

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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