Why do films about Mars flop so badly?

There’s a new Matt Damon film which has come out about his character being stranded on Mars for around a year. I hope it does well because it’s actually based on real science and an actual good book, but I worry though, films with Mars as the basis of the story don’t do well, but why is that? It seems like films about Mars are where directors go to die, what gives?

Correlation, not causation.

Because so many of them suck.

I think (unsupported assertions incoming) that part of the problem is that Mars is a real place, and we have expectations about it. Mostly that it looks like the American southwest without cacti or road runners. A fictional planet can be made to look and act however the film maker wishes.

I have been enjoying the recent few good “realistic” space films, like Europa Report, Gravity or Interstellar.

But our “Mars” movies keep going back to the “Rocket to Spaaaaccccceeee!!!” stories just like they made in the 1950s. The story is almost always about a near-future expedition and the problems they face. The conflicts are caused either by mechanical failure or social failure among the crew, and it is very hard to make a compelling new story from either making repairs or showing that the personality screening was faulty.

When the storytellers can get past the exploration tropes I think they will make better Mars movies.

Because Mars is a really boring place.

I agree-so many photos from the mars landers have been shown, that people know the place looks like a sand and gravel pit. No abandoned cities, canals, or lost civilizations-just a dry, cold dead world. Not much to base an adventure movie on.

And it ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.

I’ll agree that films set on Mars generally seem to do badly, but it ain’t always so. Byron Haskins’ 1964 Robinson Crusoe on Mars did pretty well whgen it came out, is still critically acclaimed, and has been released on a Criterion DVD. Other films get compared to it – Enemy Mine was, and I have no doubt that Ridley Scott’s upcoming version of [The Martian will, too (they cover some of the same ground).

[io]John Carter* deserved to do better – it was a heckuva film. But it got caught in the dynastic wars at Disney, and got shabbily promoted. (Very few ads. And – tell the truth – did you ever see a single John Carter toy, activity book, or the like? Isn’t that odd, for a Disney film, especially? Heck, I saw plenty of plastic toy Giant Insects from Starship Troopers, and kids weren’t even supposed to be able to get into that film.)

I thought Mars Needs Moms was great, too. I couldn’t tell you what happened with that one.

We just watched that a week or two ago. It was tolerable. Doesn’t seem to have made the Firebug’s greatest-hits list either.

They split the difference with TOTAL RECALL.

Why do you think it’s called the Red Planet?

Because we’d rather see movies about things coming from Mars, not us going there. Tom Cruise notwithstanding.

Meh. Totally derivative of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

In fact it’s cold as hell.

Glorious USSR survives on exoplanets ! Arise, workers of Solar system !

“Capricorn One” and “Mars Attacks!” are classics.

You guys aren’t the first to makje the connection Mars = Red Planet = communists.
Have a look at the Soviet film Aelita, Queen of Mars from 1924:

or 1951’s Flight to Mars

or Red Planet Mars (1952)

There’s some sort of connection to the communist USSR in each case.

A one few years ago when everyone said “Pirate movies always flop.” Then along came Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s just been a bad run of films about Mars, and that could be turned around with one big hit.

As a teenager, I saw The Martian Chronicles on TV.

I was totally caught up in the premise of the story (ancient Martians hiding from Earth colonists). It’s probably a little cheesy by today’s standards. :slight_smile: But at the time, I liked it. There was not a whole lot of “hard science” fiction on TV in the 70’s.

Because Mars sucks as a shooting location. Dry, dusty, cold, barren, can’t breathe. You can’t get good work out people when they are miserable.

Hell, even Val Kilmer said “I hate this fucking planet”, gave it the finger, then hopped on the first piece of POS transportation outa there available.

They pretty much wrapped up the movie shot after that.

John Carter was a weird and special case because ultimately the movie just had a lot of elements that had already been seen in Star Wars, Avatar, and a host of other hugely successful films… but the book it was based on, John Carter of Mars, predated and influenced all those films.

Which makes the movie… what, I’d say perhaps worthy of respect for its source material but not necessarily entertaining?