When we left off last time, nothing very exciting had happened at great length as John Carpenter experimented with the idea of making a horror movie with no horror elements.
Inside, Sgt. Statham uses the magically now-working radio to inform the rest of the team that Capt. Grier is dead and everyone else has gone insane. The radio becomes magically non-working again before Lt. TG can respond with commands for the least logical course of action.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #1: ESTABLISH THAT COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN CUT OFF. DISREGARD THIS WHEN IT BECOMES INCONVENIENT.
Cut to Lt. TG womanhandling Voluntary Prisoner Wilcox, who appears to be comically drunk somehow, demanding answers, calling Wilcox a liar, and demanding answers until Officer Duvall makes her stop. At which point Wilcox, I hate to keep saying magically, but really there's no other explanation for how Wilcox suddenly becomes sober, serious, and a Wikipedia page of made-up Mars science.
Sometimes underground Mars melts, and life happens. Then the pools dry up, and the life becomes dormant. Therefore black metal ghosts. Lt. TG (and anyone else without Bible-based science education,) doesn't understand. The terraforming, or possibly mining, or possibly both, operations woke up whatever life used to live on Mars. The life that would have gone dormant billions of years ago. Before it's core cooled and it's lack of magnetic field left it defenseless against the solar wind. So these dormant microbes, or prions or bacteria or whatever are causing the infection. So it's space anthrax. Okay. At least they're not pretending it's actual ghosts or demons.
During this science lecture, the door handle four feet away begins to turn and open slowly, building tension for what is sure to be a big 'Boo!' moment.
It's Cpl. Useless, informing the crew that Sgt. Statham found survivors and is on his way back. Boo! The ghost-bacteria possessed colonist was behind them in the other direction! The colonist immediately punches the lights out of the most threatening thing in the room, which happens to be Clea Duvall, and is subsequently killed the fuck out of by Lt. TG. Cue red-filtered first person perspective of the ghost leaving the colonists body, and slowly making up it's mind to fly inside the earhole of the prisoner with the fewest spoken lines of dialogue at this point in the film. Which was smart of the ghost, since it will probably save a few bucks.
Statham, via the working-again radio asks to be let in, along with the three survivors he's liberated, once again proving that Carpenter is trying to make a horror movie in reverse order. Sort of like The Grudge, only less artsy and using a more pedestrian variety of stupid.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #2: MORE PEOPLE=MORE PEOPLE TO SCARE!
As soon as Statham and the three strangers get inside of the building Statham orders the crew, under no circumstances and for no reason, to let anyone inside of the building. Except for these guys. They're cool apparently. It should also be worth noting that the breathing goggles are optional, as half of the cast doesn't wear them. This is probably just the movie's inability to follow it's own logic. Or maybe Capt. Grier just had a weird sense of humor and wanted her crew to try to act serious while wearing ski goggles.
Flashback to Sgt. Statham cunningly escaping from the Dimmu tribe by running directly away from them across an open field and somehow not being seen, kicking the metal door of a storage building without being heard, and being pulled inside by the survivors without being noticed.
Statham, using as much obscure British street slang as possible, asks what happened. The survivors explain that everyone went crazy and started mutilating corpses, in case anyone following along at home managed to miss this important point that's been illustrated or emphasized in every other scene for the past half an hour.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #3: REPETITION INCREASES SHOCK!
Cut to LT. TG's flashback of Sgt. Statham's flashback of Surviving Miner #1's flashback of the day the sentient microbe ghosts took over the camp during a work stoppage. This is portrayed as a badly rendered CGI cloud of purple-ish red fog.
Moving up one level of flashback where Surviving Miner #1 informs Statham that they hid until the storm passed.
Moving down one level of flashback we find that the colonists became confused, acted different, stood different, moved different, and, oh yeah, started mutilating themselves and making weapons and murdering the non-infected. Also: corpse mutilation.
Moving up two levels of flashback, Lt. TG decides to take the crew, survivors and prisoner, board the train and leave. Which is the first fucking sensible thing she's said yet. Surviving Miner #1 shrewdly guesses that the prisoner they're transporting is Desolation Cube and reveals that he is in fact Surviving Henchman #1! Adding another layer of poorly executed action movie bullshit to the many layers of poorly executed action and horror already on display.
SH1, after disarming the crew, demands Desolation Cube's release. Lt. TG, in a true display of female empowerment, calms the situation by saying "Calm down. No one wants to die here. We have bigger problems. Take Desolation and go and nobody gets hurt. We'll radio for backup as soon as it occurs to us and you'll have a nice head start and everyone gets to live."
Ha ha. Not really. She says "Over my dead body." Statham, being the true empowered female of the film, suggests that giving up Desolation may be the best course of action. TG asks for a good reason. Other than the heavily armed criminals that will probably rape and definitely kill them to death and leave their corpses for the Mayhem fans to desecrate if they don't, I guess.
Statham then rehashes the plot up to this point and suggests they stick together to increase their odds of survival.
Worst delivered and most obviously rehearsed line of the film goes to SH1: "Who you CALLing SCUMbag...motherFUCKer?" Statham visibly winces at the delivery.
While freeing Desolation and engaging in goon-banter, our new foes all obligingly enter the cell together for a group hug while Lt. TG shuts the door behind them. I'm almost positive I saw Bugs Bunny do this to Elmer Fudd. More than once.
After agreeing to work together and relinquishing their firearms, the cage is reopened, rendering the entire scene pointless, as it neither provided any information, plot points, or entertainment that would have been provided if everyone had agreed to Statham's plan originally. The Surviving Henchmen's names are Uno, Dos, and Tres. Uno being #1, Dos being the sweaty, fidgety person currently weeping and tearing his clothes off to the alarm of no one, and Tres being someone from the catering crew standing in the background holding a fake shotgun.
Lt. TG beats up Uno to establish dominance at this point. Note to future generations: Don't be fooled! Matriarchal societies will be much closer to male prison movies than you could ever imagine!
After re-releasing the other prisoners for use as meat shields in the coming shoot-up, the crew notices that one of the prisoners is infected with space anthrax, exactly how Wilcox told them it would happen. They vote to leave him in the cage. Boo!
After Ramboing up and taking drugs, the team decides to make grenades out of blasting caps and food cans. Dos, who is on drugs, cuts his thumb off while trying to open a can of soup, much to the delight of Desolation.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #4: MAKE YOUR GOOD GUYS AT LEAST AS EVIL AS YOUR BAD GUYS.
The team makes a run for the train station, which is 50 meters away. For American readers: 150 feet. For 'Merican readers: distance covered by a homosexual while you reload your shotgun.
Despite the train not being in the station, the team is ordered to proceed. Despite there being no sign of the melee-only metal zombies, they do so at a slow walk. A building explodes in the distance for no real reason.
After wasting enough time to cover the distance to the station several times over at a brisk jog not moving towards the station, Dimmu Borgir appears on the rooftops brandishing crude spears and clubs, terrifying the survivors, as they have only shotguns, hand-guns, grenades, submachine guns, and assault rifles to combat the unarmored, unintelligent, unmoving targets standing on rooftops with no cover 20 yards away.
Lt. TG orders her team to hold their fire until the Tribesmen begin throwing spears, apparently killing Wilcox. Lt. TG. then orders her team to run.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #5: IF A PREMISE REQUIRES EXTENDED NONSENSE LOGIC TO EVEN HAPPEN, IT IS NEVER THE PREMISE'S FAULT.
The team dramatically (not really,) runs away in slow motion for ten feet before arriving at the base of the station where the train still isn't.
At this point Desolation decides fuck this, let's shoot them. And they do. The ensuing gun battle is set to Generic Three Chord Thrash Riff in Em, Variation 2 by John Carpenter.
Dos blows himself up with a grenade. That is the only casualty in the otherwise one-sided slaughter.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #6: IF YOUR MONSTERS ARE ONLY DANGEROUS IN ENCLOSED SPACES WITH THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE, DON'T ALLOW THEM TO HAVE EITHER.
The bacteria begin to escape from their dead host bodies and infect the survivors, starting with Uno. The leader of the Anthraxers, who I'll call King Diamond, since, look, they REALLY REALLY look like black metal musicians. Black metal musicians are only dangerous to antique churches and other black metal musicians. And even then, only in Norway and only in the mid-90s. I SO want these to be joke bad guys (since they are,) and after killing all of them and saying "Wow, that was easy," (since it is,) the real monster pops out and does something exciting. But at 56 minutes in that seems unlikely.
Anyway, King Diamond is yelling gibberish on a wall with other Mayhems wielding torches. This distracts Tres and Cpl. Useless long enough to be killed trying to enter the compound, bringing the final score to Team Survivors: 158, Team Merciful Fates: 2, Team Leave The Drug Addled Fellow With One Thumb And Significant Blood Loss In Charge Of Operating Grenades: -1.
Moving all the way out of flashback, TG informs High Councilwoman Onsey that they then locked themselves in, and Sgt. Statham broke the lock. It's unclear whether the last part was intentional or if Statham's game was just off that night.
Back in the compound, it is revealed that Uno was really Desolation's brother, in another meaningless plot twist that will probably be abandoned immediately, like the matriarchy angle, the 60 knot winds, the storm (it's been clear as a bell since they stepped off the train,) Lt. TGs drug problem, or how the fuck billions-of-years-old microbes that evolved on fucking MARS cause apes that evolved on EARTH to turn into the road gang from every post-apocalyptic movie ever made.
Back outside, King Diamond and his surviving band members march on the compound. Back in the cells, Wilcox, who appears to be fine after taking a buzzsaw blade to the head, is trying to figure out how the infection gets transmitted. She decides it must be the wind, which makes sense. And it must be motivated by vengeance to destroy anyone or anything that tries to lay claim to its planet, which doesn't.
It should be noted that, contrary to Uno's prior testimony that the infection takes about a day to take control, the infected prisoner is completely infected in what must be the same night as we surely would have noticed if it hadn't been night since they stepped off of the train. Unless the entire compound is built near one of the poles, or the days are really long and Uno meant "a day in Earth time". Which is probably over-thinking the problem by several orders of magnitude, as the screen currently shows an elderly man covered in unconvincing wounds making the exact same "Raaaawwwrr" noise every eight year old makes when pretending to be a dinosaur.
Wilcox reveals that she was at the mine when the work stoppage was called, and that it was a code 740, which is Mars Law for Scientifically Significant Find.
Moving into Wilcox's flashback (during daylight, which shows they do happen,) we see a cliff being detonated, in keeping with action movie law #45: blow shit up every 15 minutes.
After revealing a not-manmade, but conveniently man-sized corridor that had been sealed, Wilcox's team goes exploring. Without any kind of gas masks or ski goggles or protective clothing that one would expect from a civilization that discovered things like the germ theory of disease, or that poisonous gas kept in a sealed container stays there, centuries prior.
At the end of the corridor, Wilcox finds a sealed door with alien writing on it that evaporates when she touches it, revealing another very red corridor with very red gas rushing out of it.
Moving up a level, Officer Duvall informs Lt. TG that the finicky radio had worked long enough to let them know that the train was on its way, but currently stopped at a roadblock. Duvall almost gets nabbed by the infected prisoner, but doesn't, and instead decides to stand more than two feet away from its cage.
Statham reports that there is a courtyard behind the compound containing a rover, and suggests that it might be a good idea to make a run for it. Lt. TG vetoes his idea, as usual, given his track record of being the only person in the film that has been consistently right about everything.
Outside, Emperor is exploding more things that don't really seem flammable.
Inside, Lt. TG and Desolation have a heart to heart involving Desolation congratulating TG for not dying. Desolation then reveals that he doesn't trust anyone, is a loner, and is primarily concerned with himself, which would be an interesting bit of characterization if Desolation was a kindergarten teacher or nurse or firefighter or, well, anything other than a violent career criminal named Desolation.
The old prisoner is still in his cage making pretend raptor noises with Clea Duvall looking blankly and uncomprehendingly on when she is joined by Lt. TG and Sgt. Statham, who has just found a panic room, where he tries to initiate sex with Lt. TG, who, completely against character, reciprocates.
Their menage-a-blah is immediately interrupted by Officer Clea Duvall shooting the old infected guy, re-re-releasing the rabies ghost.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #7: AFTER WRITING YOURSELF INTO A CORNER, BRAINSTORM EXACTLY ONE IDEA TO GET THE PLOT MOVING AGAIN. FILM THAT.
The microbe flies into Lt. TG's ear, and the red-cam shows the team moving her outside, where Desolation returns Lt. TG's drugs to her unconscious body.
Inside Lt. TG's bloodstream (I think,) we see either an acid trip or the history of the Martian civilization that existed centuries ago, which was basically Rome, only with giant fish-trolls. This is too insane to be explained as anything other than "infection causes vivid auditory and visual hallucinations." Unless, of course, the fish-trolls went from violent, tribal bipeds to immortal gas demons in one evolutionary leap.
Lt. TG then mumbles "No...I'm not..." and vomits out the gas. Because that's how infection works.
Moving out of flashback, TG informs Supreme Greyess that the experience was like having thoughts or memories of something else. And that she fought it off somehow. Supreme Greyness looks skeptical. As would anyone.
Back outside the compound, the only person immune to Mars Ghosts is immediately attacked by a black metaller and his terrible rhythm track. I'm serious about the terribleness. It sounds like someone read about odd-time signatures and decided to give it a go without listening to any examples first. If a telegraph operator heard this he'd think Randy Rhoads' ghost was drunk dialing him.
After besting the retardedly easy boss monster, TG fashions a grappling hook out of its sword and some conveniently placed cable, and climbs over the wall, into the courtyard of the compound.
After informing the team, via security camera, that she's not infected, honest, let me in, you cant trust me, the team lets her in.
She goes on to inform the crew that the Martians want to destroy the humans, whom they consider invaders. Which is crazy, since all the humans did was terraform the planet, set up colonies, and begin digging up resources to ship back to Earth.
The humans, remember, that treat each other like this.
The Martians, it is revealed, have built a battering ram out of a rover, which seems far-fetched as they haven't seemed to grasp any technology more advanced than sword or fire, and the team readies themselves for an Epic Last Stand.
At least I hope to fuck it's an Epic Last Stand. The last one was more of an Epic Walk Over There And Run Back.
The Martians break open the compound where they immediately don't stand a chance against the team, who make it to the panic room just before the ghosts overtake them.
One of the Martians falls through the ceiling before Desolation and TG make it through the door to the panic room. Knowing that the infected retain their consciousness and sense of self, TG opts to mercifully shoot a barrel of flammable something instead of the Martian's head, granting him a slow, agonizing death.
In a corridor that still may or may not be the panic room (I'm not trying to be confusing about where they are, exactly, but every set looks exactly the same, and words like 'compound,' 'station,' 'inner,' and 'outer,' are used interchangeably,) the fight has degraded to melee, where one of the prisoners that hasn't had any screen time in 20 minutes is killed. No one seems to notice or care. I didn't.
In the courtyard, TG gives orders to start the rover and unlock the gate, in the classic Dick Tracy method of leadership. This involves letting minority characters, foreigners, and inferiors do all the work and come up with all the good ideas, then taking credit for them.
Another crime is committed against metal as the team drives the rover to the train station, amid way more explosions than could possibly be happening, as Statham had given the tribe's numbers as around 200, and the team has already killed at least twice that.
On the train, the conductor informs the team that he'll pilot them out. As if trains had the option of evasive maneuvers. Or any kind of maneuvers other than "stop" and "follow the track."
Luckily the savvy conductor chose "follow the track" and all is seemingly well. Until Lt. TG orders the conductor to stop the train, as they have to go back.
Lt. TG, in whatever little hamster wheel governs her decision making ability, has decided that stopping the Martian insurrection is more important than warning anyone else about it even being a thing. Despite the fact that absolutely zero members of the team have any idea how to stop the infection from spreading. And that also, from a truly white person point of view, it's the human's planet because.
NEGATIVE HORROR MOVIE RULE #8: IF YOUR MOVIE REACHES ITS CLIMAX 20 MINUTES EARLY, ADD ANOTHER ONE.
Officer Duvall points out that their actual orders were to return with Desolation, not commit genocide against intelligent, sentient life-forms attempting to repel an invasion.
Lt. TG then asks Witlock what would happen if they blew up the nuclear power plant. Witlock says nothing much unless you exposed the core. Then tells Lt. TG how to do that. Lt. TG decides that's their first, and therefor best, option, even though there are so many things wrong with it, such as nuclear fallout, intentionally destroying a nuclear power plant and everything in a one mile radius of it, that whoever owns all this stuff might be upset at having it blown up and covered in radiation, the families and loved ones of all the infected miners that might like to have a funeral that doesn't cause sterility and hair loss, every scientist that might like to study the disease and find a cure or vaccine, and the fact that it might not even kill the gas.
Lt. TG then explains to the Board that, even though her childishly simple plan accounted for almost one possible outcome, it somehow didn't work. With TG, Wilcox, And Statham at the plant, and everyone else on the train providing a decoy, the stage was set to go immediately and badly wrong.
The freight train, probably not designed to withstand a siege of homicidal alien madmen, is attacked instantly upon arriving at the station, just as TG, Statham and Wilcox enter the plant.
Lt. TG, reminding the audience why she gets paid the big Lieutenant bucks (by fucking Pam Grier,) remains outside to watch the train being attacked. Not realizing that line-of-site can work both ways she is spotted by the charred Martian that had survived her earlier immolation attempt. Panicking, she radios the train and orders them to come back to the power plant, which they do, leading the rest of the Martians that hadn't noticed TG to the station.
I really, really can't stress how boring and ineffectual this soundtrack is enough.
Desolation, Duvall, and Conductor jump off the train and immediately begin lobbing death at the Martians. WIlcox is infected, Conductor is killed, TG takes an arrow to the knee. I'm not being funny, an arrow really does hit her in the knee. Duvall gets decapitated an hour and twenty two minutes late. Statham shows off the opposite of the kung fu skills he displayed in The Transporter. I'm not kidding, he's throwing punches at the speed of geology and obviously missing the stuntmen by several feet, who then fly away as if hit by a wrecking ball. Desolation saves TG. Again.
Desolation and TG make it back to the train just in time for the co-conductor to be killed by a thrown sawblade. Fun Science Fact: If you ever wonder how many saws it takes to build a colony on Mars entirely out of metal, it's infinity.
Back on-board, Desolation engages the train in evasive action, and only a few Martians are not distracted enough by corpse mutilation to give chase and jump on. Desolation goes to investigate. TG panics five seconds after he leaves and begins calling out and opening doors looking for him, since matriarchies are founded on the principle that women can't keep it together for ten seconds without a man around.
Desolation sets the dynamite on one of the rear cars to explode and begins to detach them when he's attacked by a deceptively silent screaming madman covered in metal. Actual metal metal, not the awful, repetitive soundtrack.
Meanwhile, another Martian jumps into the door TG just opened, and TG's crippling leg wound heals just in time for her to fight back with more slow, clumsy karate.
They best their individual opponents easily, as it has been repeatedly established that the Martians are somewhere between Storm Trooper and Spike Trap on the Hero Threat Index. Desolation detaches the cars just in time for the dynamite to remember to blow up. Which it does. Several times.
Having pushed her opponent out of the car, TG and Desolation reunite just in time for a Mars Shattering Kaboom.
TG wakes up to Desolation stitching up her wound, and lamenting on the irony of him helping a police officer. TG promises to get Cube's charges dropped. Cube handcuffs TG to the bed and escapes. TG grins like a schoolgirl at this development.
Back in now, TG tells the Board of Broads (mostly men though,) that Williams must have handcuffed her and escaped while she slept, throwing the man who repeatedly saved her life under the bus for no reason other than to make herself look marginally better. She was then allowed to leave, which, I don't know, blowing up a nuclear reactor and a mining town seems like it might be illegal. Even if a cop did it.
The Chief Inquisitess then asks the Board rhetorically if they're going to tell the Cartel that Mars is being overrun by ghosts.
Cut to exterior: the fog is approaching the city. Shock.
TG awakes in another bleak, rusty room to the sound of the security system issuing an alert. Desolation bursts in carrying twin chrome uzi's, and tosses one to TG. Goon banter, guns cocked, FIN.
Okay, so the ending seems to imply that Desolation and TG are off to continue fighting a literally unwinnable war that they only escaped by luck, luck, Jason Statham, and luck last time. Well, luck and TG's ability to violate the rules of the fiction just because.
And the Board decided not to tell their superiors they were being overrun by ghosts. Fair enough. Because there's not fucking evidence for ghosts. But there is a mountain of evidence for fucking airborne Mars rabies. Still don't want to report that? How about when they ask "Hey, remember that nuclear reactor that used to be there? And these several mining camps? And every worker in them? Anything you'd like to comment on?”
The best message I can possibly gather out of all that nonsense is some kind of clumsy critique of capitalistic dominionism. But once one applies like ten seconds of thought to it it either falls apart or makes Carpenter look like a monster. So I'll go with the charitable option and say this movie is a boring, nonsensical mess made out of several smaller boring, nonsensical messes.
Final Thoughts That Aren't Charitable
For critical purposes, I'll assume the sentient alien was the fog, and the creatures portrayed in the flashback were Martian animals that the fog used as hosts.
The other options include taking a metaphorical view, with the Martians as, oh, say, the Native Americans at the time of the European invasion. Since the Martians are never treated or portrayed in any way sympathetically and no one, ever questions the rightness of exterminating them, so much so that the heroine of the film violates her orders so that she can blow up a nuclear reactor on the off chance that it will kill them, that doesn't paint a very good picture of anyone involved in this film.
Taken less metaphorically: is this the race we should be shooting into space in the near future? Oops, we landed on and began terraforming and mining a planet that already had occupants. How do we respond to an alien, sentient species treating us as invaders? Extermination? I know, as a species, we may be a long way from embracing each other's unique differences, and that there is a lot of work to do before our default setting is 'work together' instead of 'put the in-group first,' but sweet fucking christ, Carpenter, you really want to portray our entire future society as planet-exterminatingly xenophobic and entitled?
TG's racial flashbacks during her infection showed a relatively advanced society. Primitive by our standards, maybe, but I'll argue that no intelligent race could ever develop a common written language, and build an ordered, bronze-age society without having something worth saving. Yes, the Martians wanted to kill all of the humans, but the humans are the alien invaders. The Martians were protecting their planet in the only way they could, and instead of realizing that, humanity, as a whole, decided they were wrong for doing so.
Finally, taken literally: this society is called a matriarchy. That was not a throw-away decision. Throw-away future-us's are things like Federations, or Empires, which are not gender-specific. That little text blurb at the beginning of the film said quite a bit. This is what a society ran by women is. A society that will kill an entire planet for mineral rights. A society that will rush to use nuclear weapons against a bronze age opponent. A society that cannot even consider the concept that anyone or anything beyond the in-group has any rights, up to and including the right to exist.
And even on an individual level, the film consistently portrays women as using faulty logic and being corrected by men. Being constantly saved by men after blundering into danger. And then attacking men when they challenge or question their authority. Women panicking when given any responsibility. Women not doing the responsible thing and alerting their superiors of imminent danger. Women withholding critical information regarding the threat. Women, knowing that killing the host frees the infection, intentionally killing caged hosts.
And I would normally give all of that a pass. Dumbass decisions are unisex. But someone decided to call this a matriarchy. And someone decided to then paint every woman in the film as some variation of incompetent, hostile, panicky, obstructive, violent, insecure, dumb, and/or unreasonable, that needs to be constantly saved by big, strong, smart, capable men. And that goddamn does not get a fucking pass.
Fuck you, John Carpenter.