Ghosts of Mars (2001)
One of only a handful of Carpenter movies I've never seen before and can't recall why I gave this a miss. Could have been the unappealing title, the lack of fanfare surrounding its release, Ice Cube as lead, or that it looks like complete crap. Most likely all of the above. Time to correct this egregious oversight in my film education.
I won't say it's complete crap, but darned close. It's passable from a gore perspective, but really doesn't manage to tickle the creepy bone like Carpenter usually does. It's hard to look at the freaky alien-possessed people as anything other than laughable. Reasonably amusing as a camp comedy/horror film with some occasional decent lines, but overall the film takes itself way too seriously. Suspension of disbelief issues aside, the base idea of the movie just never really gets into gear to go anywhere. There was a promising scene told by Joanna Cassidy (she's still awesome in most anything she shows up with) where the discover an ancient alien tunnel at a dig site, but it's literally seconds long and ends with red mist rushing out the tunnel. Nothing else. Never visited the idea again outside of a brief flashback as the hero improbably fights off alien possession via hallucinatory drugs. See kids, drugs do help make a body stronger!
Statham might as well not be in the film. I'm sure it was fun that he got to be in a more standard Hollywood movie, but he's got very little to do. There's some personality showing through, but it's unfortunately of the repulsive type. Not terribly heroic, not particularly funny, but does get to randomly waste a lot of pinheads with various weaponry so I guess he has that going for him. Which is nice. Otherwise, it's hard to get up the interest to even call 'meh' on this one.
Natasha has never been my favorite actress and while she's not bad in this, she really brings jack to the table. Sure, she looks good in a tight t-shirt, and attempts to glare menacingly, but Carpenter films demand people with major charisma above all else and neither she nor anyone else in this are up to the task. If we'd taken this premise and then had the quality of cast from Big Trouble in Little China, this could have actually been pretty fun. Speaking of quality, Ice Cube is not exactly classically trained and pretty badly sleepwalks through the first half of the movie, but finally manages to find some decent chemistry with Natasha near the end and provided some half-way redeeming moments of camaraderie and banter. Too little too late by that point.
Baddassery Quotient - 3
Statham shoots some guns, smacks some people with guns, stabs some people with guns, but that's about it. There were plenty of opportunities for him to apply his MMA background here, so it's very puzzling that he doesn't. Was he keeping that a secret, or did someone make a really bad decision to keep that out since it wouldn't have been in character. Lack of awesome hand-to-hand combat combined with repeated lame attempts to bed Natasha's character make this about as low a BQ as I imagine I'll see from him.
Rewatchability - No thanks
It's a Carpenter film, so it was at least mildly entertaining, but I can't see any reason to ever go back here. Certainly better sci-fi, Statham, or Carpenter choices to be had. I learned my lesson with Batman & Robin: There's just no need to go back and watch something this lame ever again. Wouldn't recommend anyone else give it a try.
Next up - The One. Appears to be a sci-fi wanna be flick with Jet Li. There's generally a lower limit on how bad a Jet Li film can be though, so hopefully it'll be at least mildly amusing.