Red Planet is first and foremost a philosophical declaration of mankind's subconscious desire to seek out and destroy God. The tool, or theory, used to achieve this outrageous conclusion is Sex, not in the Christian or erotic sense, but Sex as explicit, reproductive paganism. The structure of the film is that of a helix: On the one hand, the film is a search for a quantifiable vision of God; on the other, it is a demonstration of the pagan sexual imperative. Every scene in the film relates to both of these helical poles equally.
"God is no longer a liberator in heaven, but an oppressor on Earth."--John Stuart Mill
At the very outset of the film, we are informed that mankind has grossly overpopulated Earth to the point that "it had become clear that mankind wasn't going to survive," and that "to avoid extinction, we had to find a new home." Moreover, we never once see Earth in this film: It exists only as a historical repository, or a grand nostalgia. Indeed, Earth serves only to inform the metaphysical state from which the film's philosophy must emerge: Mankind has, through excessive copulation, managed to all but destroy God, and thus reduce Earth to a state of pure nihilism.
"Blood [is] reality with a symbolic function."--Michel Foucault
Mars is red and empty. Here we have two important codes: One is the color red, which is the very color of blood. Blood is connected to life by way of the menstrual cycle, which as one famous poet put it is "the rhythm of existence." But nowhere do we find a more direct correlation between life and blood than with vampires, who desperately, erotically thirst for blood because it rejuvenates them. In Red Planet, Earth is an impotent vampire in search of fresh blood on potent Mars.
The second code, emptiness, represents the condition of the desert. We don't find God in the forest (there He is hidden or making creepy noises); we find Him in the dazzling emptiness of the desert. Thus, Mars stands for both God and the possibilities of sex.
"Supposing truth is a woman--then what?"--Friedrich Nietzsche
The six-person crew of the Mars-1 spacecraft is an explicit surrogate for the entirety of humankind. We have the aged philosopher, who wants only to see God before he dies; we have the cold scientist, who wants only to figure out the mechanics of the universe; and we have the pagan Everyman (Val Kilmer), who wants only to get drunk and have sex. But most importantly, we have the woman (Carrie-Anne Moss), who symbolizes the reproductive life-force. The ship is under her command; the crew are subject to her orders. Indeed, the very future of mankind depends on her ability to engage these reproductive systems and conceive.
4. THE VESSEL
"The carriage held but just ourselves, and immortality."--Emily Dickinson
In most sci-fi films, the spaceship's computer speaks with a woman's voice; and if it is a man's voice (as with Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey), it is effeminate, soft-spoken, motherly. The spaceship (or mother ship) that leaves dead Earth for blood-red Mars is not phallic, it does not resemble an erect and ready to penetrate penis; instead, it resembles a woman's reproductive system--cyclical, convoluted, engulfing. In short, it is an interstellar womb.
5. FIRST ENCOUNTER
"The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire."--The Bible
When Moses sees God in a cave on Mt. Sinai, God is so bright that He only permits Moses to see a bit of His glorious backside. In Red Planet, the same dangerous brightness appears in the form of a solar flare that erupts like an angry god, showering the ship with radiation.
Critically damaged, the ship is forced to reject all live content save the woman, who must stay on board and restore the battered womb to health. She does this by first coordinating a violent, fiery menstruation, and then stabilizing a Martian orbit--or initiating a new menstrual cycle.
"You ask me when I am coming. I do not know/I dream of your mountains and autumn pools brimming all night with the rain."--Li Shang-Yin
Approximately halfway through Red Planet, we arrive at the most brilliant representation of foreplay ever produced by Hollywood: The five men are on the harsh surface of Mars trying to stay alive, while the woman is in the sky, looking for them with a powerful electronic eye. We have seen that she is reaching the high point of estrus in her menstrual cycle, and that she is thus working on a strict time limit. The men must return to the ship before the cycle is complete, lest it return to moribund Earth without a life-rejuvenating mother lode.
"For each ecstatic instant, we must an anguish pay in keen and quivering ratio to the ecstasy."--Emily Dickinson
As Luce Irigiray once pointed out, sex is 90 percent trauma and 10 percent ecstasy. In Red Planet, these percentages are strictly adhered to. Val Kilmer finally manages to achieve erection, and blasts off into the stratosphere of Mars. He is alone in his little rocket, exposed, naked, vulnerable. Simultaneously, we see Carrie-Anne Moss in her womb, which now has become explicitly uterine; a nurturing cavern with soft-looking silvery walls and an airlock (or cervix) at one end. We then see her climb into a space suit, to which a strange egg-like propulsion unit attaches, propelling her toward Kilmer. Grasping hold of his little rocket, she manages to pull him back into her womb, but the penetration is extremely traumatic: The rocket scrapes the silvery walls and thrusts about violently, sparks flying everywhere. It is an extremely explicit scene.
And yet, the coitus must still resolve itself to conception. In the final moments of this scene, we see Carrie-Anne Moss actually rip off Kilmer's space suit in order to access his flesh and "start his heart beating again" (begin life). The last line in the film then blatantly implies that the six-month voyage away from Mars will be a long, drawn-out session of space-fucking. Order has been restored, God has been vanquished, and humanity is free to bring its pagan sexual function to this new world. Brilliant!
7a. ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION
The small rocket that Val Kilmer must use to launch off the surface of Mars is shaped like a penis, and, significantly, will not "ignite." Even as the flying womb overhead threatens to leave estrus, the rocket is stuck on the surface, unable to achieve erection.