Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Martian Chronicles (1980)

Impressive, if compromised mini-series adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic book about mankind's colonization of Mars and its literal and metaphysical implications. The through-line, created for the film, involves N.A.S.A. higher-up Rock Hudson as he launches two (of the novel's three) Mars expeditions, and then as he heads up the final, successful attempt to settle on Mars. The rest of the series involves adaptations of several of the anecdotal short stories contained in Bradbury's work, but relating them through the viewpoint of Hudson's astronaut character. While the stories that are adapted are, for the most part, fairly faithful to the source material, relaying our experience through a singular character removes some of the mysticism and parable of the novel, reducing it to a collection of odd occurrences and happenstance. The metaphysical and philosophical implications of mankind's unwanted presence on Mars are present, but diluted due to Hudson's hammy, unwarranted appearances. Even the 1980 TV-grade effects support the backbone of the stories more than the script, which was surprisingly written by Twilight Zone vet Richard Matheson (he might have had execs looking over his shoulder, which would account for the compromised structure). The cast ranges, for the most part, from competent to pitch-perfect, as Bernadette Peters and Bernie Casey perform.

Recommended for fans of Ray Bradbury or high-minded, philosphical sci-fi. Fans of the source material: if you understand that this is a crappy, early-80's TV version of the book, then it is actually an enjoyable, relatively reverent adaptation.

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