It' 2050 A.D. and the earth is an ecological mess. With the most liberal estimates giving our terrestrial home a mere 100 years to sustain life, mankind's only chance for survival is to pack their bags and move to Mars. In preparation for the migration, scientists dispatched the unmanned Martian Terraforming Project some 25 years previous, and its oxygen generating algae have been happily reproducing ever since -- creating an atmosphere fit for human habitation in the process.
Until recently that is. Oxygen levels are in a serious state of decline and no one knows why. With the future of mankind at stake, a science team headed by Commander Kate Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss) travels to the Red Planet in search of an answer. But when a solar flare disables their spacecraft on orbit entry, Bowman orders Mechanical Systems Engineer Robby Gallagher (Val Kilmer) and the remaining crew to seek refuge on the surface below while she stays behind in hopes of salvaging the ship -- and a ride home.
After a spectacular crash-landing scene, the first humans on Mars find themselves miles from their intended destination and unable to communicate with Bowman. With only 16 hours of oxygen left, the ground-bound quintet search for the terraforming biosphere and its life sustaining products. Problem is, they're not the only ones involved in a hunt. AMEE, their Autonomous Mapping Exploration and Evasion robot (imagine a transformer-like dog on steroids), short-circuited during the rough landing and is stuck in search-and-destroy mode.
Like many sci-fi adventures, Red Planet's script requires the death of some characters, and although this is done without much detail and gore, the termination of at least two lives may be overly intense for pre-teens. But the greater cause of concern for many families will be the inclusion of an accidental meeting in the shower room (brief female nudity seen from the side), frequent usage of terms of Deity, and the gratuitous occurrence of a sexual expletive (complete with middle-finger salute) -- and for many families, those faulty components may be all it takes to prevent this mission to Mars from getting off the ground.