Hall of Fame Speech #12: Ghosts of Mars

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a third class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly eight years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. This is the second installment leading up to the sixth (eighth?) Smaddies Baddies bringing you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. Sometimes when directors get real old they decide they’re going to really show everyone that they still got it! And then you realize sadly that the industry passed them by and the movie is instead just really hilarious. That’s Ghosts of Mars. For reals, it’s hilarious. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Ghosts of Mars

Back in the day John Carpenter was a Hollywood legend. He created The Thing, Halloween, and Assault on Precinct 13 among countless other horror and action classics. So naturally when he came up with the story for Ghosts of Mars he knew he had done it again! It had it all, the three B’s: Boobs, Big Guns, and BANANANANANANANAS! … What’s that? That’s the sounds the zombie leader makes in the film. What’s that? Yeah, Ghosts of Mars, it’s a zombie pic, was that not clear by the title? What I’m sure started as a straightforward sci-fi flick starring Ice Cube, quickly spirals into a madness of flashbacks within flashbacks with flashbacks … literally. At one point there is a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, John Carpenter thought that making this film a rats nest of flashbacks was a coherent way to tell a story. And that’s the kind of forward thinking the Bad Movie Twins look for in a Hall of Fame film. Batshit crazy nonsense that elevates what would otherwise might be a sad testament to how time takes even the best of us in the end. Let’s get into it.

It has been over five years since I watched this thing, so what do I remember?

  • BANANANANANAANANANAS! The main antagonist of the film looks like someone from a mid-90s heavy metal music video and sounds like that. And no joke … his name is credited as Big Daddy Mars. It is infinitely hilarious.
  • The movie looks like trash. It was made in the 2000s! I can’t quite remember if it is all bad CGI, but I do remember the makeup choices don’t age very well.
  • This is one in a series of Ice Cube on a train films. At the time we were on a kind of kick of Ice Cube films, we had watched Ice Cube save the President of the United States on a train not even three months before in xXx: State of the Union.
  • For some reason I always think of them as zombies even though that doesn’t make sense. I do think it is considered a zombie film of sorts, which is interesting. But for the life of me I can’t remember why the film is called Ghosts of Mars … That is probably what I’m interesting in most on the rewatch.
  • Flashbacks baby! The first few years of BMT were marked by a few films having dreams within dreams. This takes that idea to the next level. There is at least three levels but possibly four? It is absurd even to consider.

As usually I put the first and last points as the most important. BANANANANANANANANAS is the more obvious of the two important points. The aliens can’t really talk properly and thus the neverending speeches by Big Daddy Mars doesn’t exactly translate to the audience in the end. Instead … well, he sounds like he’s asking for a bunch of BANANANANANANANANAS? Over and over and over again he wants BANANANANANANANAS. Once you hear it you will never unhear it, you’re welcome.

The second most important note is obviously the flashbacks. Around that time in BMT’s history there was a natural obsession with the quirks of directorial choices. We were still mowing through some of the bad movie classics and there was a veritable bounty of such things. This movie stands out for just the sheer amount of such choices: the flashbacks, side wipes, dutch angles, strange fades. He really did go all out. But the flashbacks, it is what I would remember more than anything else. The madman did it! He did a flashback within a flashback within a flashback! It is brilliant.

So how did the rewatch go? Better than I could have imagined. Not only was everything I remembered there, but with my boundless BMT knowledge I felt a deeper understanding of the true madness of the film. Initially I thought Carpenter’s choice with the flashback was some sort of ill-conceived attempt to get in on that non-linear storytelling bandwagon. Memento came out the year before after all. But nay! The film is somehow the most linear way to tell a story that can possibly be done!

The entire film in itself is told as a flashback by Natasha Henstridge explaining what happened during the ill-fated trip to a remote Mars mining outpost. As the group member split up and then rejoin you are told the entire story via a series of flashback IN THE ORDER HENSTRIDGE HEARS THEM. They’ll split up, you see Henstridge’s story, she meets up with the other party and asks “hey what happened?”, they respond “Well let me explain”, and bam! You’re in a flashback. It happens without fail. And within flashbacks the same rule applies. Hey Statham, what happened? Oh let me explain *flashback*, so I met these weirdos as asked “hey, what happened”, and they were like “oh let me explain” *another flashback*. Etc. etc. etc. etc. It is one of the most incredible things you will ever see.

The rest of the film is just John Carpenter doing weird John Carpenter things. He decides his synth-heavy soundtrack won’t really work, so he makes some punk rock soundtrack with a little help from his friends. He then dresses up the bad guys as punk rockers, and does a ton of not-very-good-looking practical effects. All of this results in BANANANANANAS being yelled a lot and a ton of blood. Which could all kind of be excused if the film wasn’t told in a batshit insane way.

I would highly highly recommend this film for any bad movie lover out there. It really will just melt your mind. And in the end I feel fine needling John Carpenter a bit. He’s an amazing director, and my love for my work only makes it all the more amusing to see it go wrong on occasion. Congrats Ghosts of Mars, you are truly BANANANANANANANAS!

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