14 October 2014

FWS Top 10: The Most Important War Movies


War. It is one of the most explored topics in human history, and it is the one of greatest agents of change in global events. Despite the horror and pain of human conflict, is often the topic of cinema, and even the best American movie ever made: 1939's Gone With The Wind is set against the backdrop of the Civil War and its aftermath. War movies can be much more than just showing cool guns and explosion, they are an opportunity for a conversation about the conflict itself and how it effected individuals and the nation at large. War movies were a staple in my life, and since I've never served in the military, war movies were the beginning of my understanding about the military and the lives of soldiers. While FWS is mainly devoted to military science fiction, war films are very important to the genre as a whole. Here is my Top Ten most important war films, and these were chosen by me to reflect something that these film changed about society or a genre or even myself. Only Platoon is in any order of importance. Watch for the FWS Armory blogpost on sniper rifle in about a week!

1. PLATOON (1987)
There is a reason why 1987's Platoon  is number one on this list: it altered the national conversation about Vietnam. Platoon was a national mutual cathartic experience that allowed the United States, as a whole, to final talk about the horror that was the Vietnam War, and the mistreatment of the veterans of that war. While no movie made about armed conflict could be really considered anti-war, this film comes damn close, and Platoon is one film that will stay with you due to its haunting depiction of war and how no survivor of combat is left untouched. No battles are glorious, no soldier a saint, the enemy are not monster, Platoon lays bare the sins of war on the psychic of the soldier and how we must chose carefully when and how we as a nation t deploy troops into combat. Most Vietnam War veterans I know cannot watch Platoon much than once, it is too close to the truth. This film changed me, and continues to effect my writing and outlook on war.

2. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)
World War II movies had been done...to death by the time Saving Private Ryan would come to the silver screen, but it would relaunch the interest in the 2nd World War for over a decade. Without SOPR, Call of Duty, Band of Brothers, Medal of Honor would not have been made. No only would the film's setting relight interest in World War II, it would also alter how war movies were shoot and produced. SOPR did more than just that, it showed the truth of the Normandy Landings on June 6th, 1944. While the D-DAY landing had been shown on screen in 1962's The Longest Day, the horror of the beach landing was too much for 1960's audiences. Here in SPOR, we experience the hell that those soldiers of the Greatest Generation had to suffer through to rid the world of the Nazi scourge. Everything in this film works and shows the genius of Steven Spielberg.

3. GLORY (1989)
War is hell, and at times, the tactics of the day seem stupid to modern peoples. This is the truth of 1989's Glory. This is one of the first war films to demonstrate the hell of Civil War era combat and the tactics of the day to modern audiences with modern film-making. While interest in the Civil War never seems to wane, Glory would delivery the power of the Civil War to the masses. Glory would also shed some light on the then little known Black Union units, and the challenges of bring them into the fight. Glory would be packed with talents in front and behind the camera, making one of the greatest war movies ever committed to film, and move over, it stays with you. I can remember showing this film to my maternal Grandfather (whom I am named for), and despite being a study of history and lover of the Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War, he walked out on this film, calling it inaccurate and stupid. That is the power of truth in film-making.

4. ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012)
It is rare that a film is made during the events that it portrayals, and Zero Dark Thirty altered the conversation about elements involved in the War on Terror. The events that are seen in Zero Dark Thirty are subject of national conversations, nightly news, and heated online discussion. This made the job of the film just that much harder, and the cast and crew pulled it off. The scenes with the CIA torturing at those black sites sheds light on both sides of the argument for and against torture. In addition, it displayed Operation: NEPTUNE SPEAR in the right context and with honest realism. That portion of the film is some of the most intense combat sequences I've seen in many years. I feel that this film will only grow in importance to the next generations as a look at these crazy times in human history.

5. BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001)
While tons of movies have been made about the 2nd World War and Vietnam, the event from October 3th and 4th, 1993 were forgotten by many American until the Newspaper series and book by Mark Bowden that fueled this 2001 Ridley Scott film. Honestly, the first time you see this modern war epic is an rare experience. My wife and I were on the edge of our seats and by the end, there were tears in our eyes. Black Hawk Down would masterfully cast light on this battle and the men involved, allowing for these heroes' efforts and valor to be honored by the world.In addition, Black Hawk Down is just one hell of a war film that inspirited new directions n film making and the more books and documentaries on the Battle of Mogdishu. On a personally note, Black Hawk Down would rekindle my interest in the military, leading to this blog and my book Endangered Species, along with paintball.

6. FULL METAL JACKET (1987)
1987 would see the release of two of the most iconic Vietnam War era films: Platoon and this film shot by one of the greatest directors of the 20th century: Stanley Kubrick. Full Metal Jacket was in some ways the opposite of Platoon. Instead of the jungle and a platoon of core character, Full Metal Jacket followed Marines Joker and Cowboy from the Island to the Battle of Hue City during the Tet Offensive. While many remember the film for the hard-edged DI played expertly by former Marine DI R. Lee Ermey, the film is much more than some of the best uses of English profanity, it shows the strangeness of combat in Vietnam, and its unfairness. While many remember the basic training scenes, once the film moves to Vietnam, we see a different side of the experiences of the American soldier while in-county. This film is a surreal trip into this strange war with masterful direction and acting.  It also address the duality of man’s view to war and killing.
7. DAS BOOT (1981)
Rare are films that depict the other side of a war, and even rarer are films about 3rd Reich Germany, and added to that, U-boat films. During both world wars, German submarines were were the assassins of the seas and their tactics of attacking shipping vessels would brand them cowards and dishonorable. In 1981, director Wolfgang Petersen would forge one of the great classics of war cinema about these assassins of the seas by adding a layer of humanity and reality to the World War II U-Boat commander and crew of U-96. Using accurate U-Boat interiors and realistic conditions with veteran consultants, Das Boot cast a harsh light into the world of submarine combat, no matter the nationality. The films breaks the idea that all serving members of the 3rd Reich military were Nazis, and the "glory" of service in a metal tube underwater. Das Boot is gripping in its filming of the struggles, the panic, and the boredom of the service of U-96.

8. BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY (1989)
In 1989, Oliver Stone would direct another Vietnam War film, and this time, it was more about the fight after leaving Vietnam War. This film tells the story of Ron Kovic, a dedicated Marine, and who willing signed up for service in Vietnam, and during his 2nd tour of duty, his world changed. In January of 1969, Kovic received an spinal cord injury from hostile gunfire, leaving him paralyzed. During his recovery, Kovic would see the sorry state of America’s care of Veterans, and he would soon be an advocate for veterans’ rights. Through his book and 1989 film, Kovic and Stone were able to bring attention to state of the VA in America and need for improved care for veterans. As a film, Born on the 4th of July would be considered Tom Cruise’s greatest performance and the other side of the coin of the more combat-centered Vietnam War films of this era.
9. THE DAY AFTER (1983)
Many believed during the Cold War that the next big war would be the last one for our species. World War III was envisioned as beginning in mushroom clouds and ending in pillars of ashes and blasted shadows. In 1983, ABC network would create a stark TV mini-series on aftermath of a nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR. This film would be released at difficult point in US/Soviet relations, and its airing would alter national foreign policy. The Day After tells the story of the horror of nuclear war via two Midwestern American cities and survivors of the apocalypse. This film scared the utter shit out of me and unlike the zombie apocalypse, nuclear war is still all too real. No more was this more true when I was seven years old when The Day After was aired. The mere thought of a nuclear exchange between the Superpowers would spell the end of the world as we know it, and an altering of human civilization that we would never come back from. 100 million would watch The Day After, and the American public would achieve a collective clarity on the policies of nuclear arms, resulting new international nuclear arms policies on limitation. After President Reagan watched the mini-series, he understood that his own administration’s nuclear arms policy would have to be changed due to the lack of national will. The public had been education on what could happen if our bombs outgrew our words, and a war was fought in mere minutes.       

10. M*A*S*H (1970)
This is an unusual choice, and a personal one. M*A*S*H was the only war movie that my paternal Grandfather ever saw. My Grandfather was a full-bird Colonel, who served in World War II (Pacific) and the Korean War as an infantry commander, and had zero desire to see a “war film”. However, he did see M*A*S*H. and loved it. To him, the film was darkly funny, especially to those veterans of Korea. M*A*S*H came at low point in the popularity of war films, given the Vietnam War, however, M*A*S*H became a hit, and fueled a TV series on NBC that would outlast the real Korean War by several years. M*A*S*H is an important war film for bucking the trend of thinly veiled propaganda war movie along with adding some realism to war films and the unique culture that is created by soldiers away from home. It would also give rise to the longest running military television drama of all time. Lastly, M*A*S*H also was a different kind of war film that did not deal directly with the combat or the infantry, but the medical side of a combat zone.
 

08 October 2014

FWS Military Sci-Fi Oddities: Operation: ALIENS Cartoon Series (1992)












The road for the ALIENS franchise has been rough since the release of ALIENS back in 1986. Back in the early 1990’s, it was believed by 20th Century Fox to be the perfect time to expand the brand with the upcoming release of ALIEN 3. While many of us ALIENS fans are aware of the 1992-1995 Kenner toyline, what I did not know was the 20th Century Fox plan to incorporate a Saturday afternoon cartoon series to promote the toys and the 3rd film. While some may lament the loss of this ALIENS product, I think we can all breathed a sigh of relief. We missed a bullet, my friends, an big fat techno-colored bullet. Everything about this aborted ALIENS cartoon seems wrong, forced, and fake when compared to the dark science fiction horror masterpiece that was 1986's ALIENS. So, in this installment of FWS Military sci-fi Oddities blog serial, we will be seeing what we missed out on with the attempted Operation: ALIENS cartoon. In the near future, FWS will be discussing the Kenner ALIENS toyline in a Military Sci-Fi Toys blogpost.

What was Operation: ALIENS?
This was an stillborn American cartoon series done by Korean animators and to be aired in the 1130am time-slot in the Saturday morning cartoon schedule. Its aim was to market the ALIENS brand to the 6-12 boys demographic and promote the upcoming ALIEN 3 film. Kenner was also tapped to product the toyline. Due to the pilot episode was never seen or maybe never finished, the basic story of the cartoon was never fully fleshed out. Operations: ALIENS would have featured some of the core characters from the ALIENS movie: Ripley, Drake, Apone (who wears an "NO BUGS" t-shirt), Hudson, Bishop, Vasquez, and Hicks. Reality was never the cartoons strong suit. It is believed that the Marine characters would have been formed into an ALIEN emergency response unit with special abilities, machines, and talent. So, Xeno outbreak? Call Operations: ALIENS! One call destroys them all! The cartoon was still underdevelopment in late summer, even after ALIEN 3 had bombed at the cinema and then was cancelled.

The Historical Context of Operation: ALIENS
As previously stated in the GI Joe Star Brigade blogpost from last month, the early 1990’s were a time of great uncertainly for the major toy companies. The 1980’s apex of 6-12 boys’ toys was fading with the decreasing popularity of GI Joe, He-Man, and Transformers, the toy companies attempting to bring new items to market. Replacing the older 1980’s toys, were the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers toylines. During this period, Hasbro acquired Kenner, as 20th Century Fox was gearing up to bring ALIENS to Saturday Morning Cartoons and Kenner was tasked with bring the space monsters and space marines to the toy stores. Hasbro believed that they needed to response to Kenner’s and 20th Century Fox’s plans with their own GI Joe space soldiers-vs.-aliens toyline. Like many of the successful previous toylines, Kenner and 20th Century Fox were developing ALIENS cartoon series for the 6-12 age demographic. However, by this time, the tie-in cartoon series sales strategy was waning in popularity and effectiveness. It was also during this period that the ALIENS universe was also gearing for a new movie, the first one since 1986’s ALIENS, and hopes were riding high on it. Adding to this was the popular Dark Horse ALIENS comics and continued sales of ALIENS models.

Why is Operation: ALIENS an Military Sci-Fi Oddity?
As one internet review simply stated, Operations: ALIENS was ALIENS lite for kids. At its heart, this project was envisioned by 20th Century Fox as an animated TV kids' show with an accompanying toyline featuring one of the deadliest creatures in the known galaxy that preys on humans for breeding shock? And not only that, but the Xenomorphs spend most of the films stalking and killing humans with grim, bloody effectiveness, and somehow that seemed like a great concept for a kids show to the suits over at the studio? What the frak? To be honest there was some precedent for this idea. The film Ghostbusters was altered to conform to a successful toyline and cartoon, along with Rambo and Robocop...but these works were not ALIENS. The mere idea of detuning ALIENS for a kids' cartoon is beyond batshit crazy odd to me, and when I learned of this...I thought it was a joke. I mean, did the suits even watch the films? This was an half-baked idea if there ever was one. More over, this series and the toyline resurrected the core dead Colonial Marine characters from the 1986 film and washed them out of their personality and stuck them into this kiddie-light version of the ALIENS universe. This seems in bad taste, especially given how beloved the characters are by us ALIENS fans. I felt betrayed when I saw the toys back in the 1990's, and after seeing what they were going to do, I was insulted. Besides the obvious, Operations: ALIENS is an oddity because it mocked the original work and milked the core elements to sell it out on the street like some cheap whore.    

What Happened to Operation: ALIENS?
In the simplest of terms, the cartoon was stillborn. For some unconfirmed reason, 20th Century Fox pulled the plug on the pilot episode and all other work related to the Operation: ALIENS cartoon. Even in the age of the internet and video hosting websites, the pilot episode has never been seen. We have no idea of what this cartoon series would have looked like. The question is why Operations: ALIENS was cancelled? There are no confirmed details released, and this has led to much speculation. The most popular and likely theory is that with ALIEN 3 sinking at the box-office in summer of 1992, there was no disturbing or even interest in an ALIENS cartoon, and 20th Century Fox cut their losses, and moved on. Other theory is that the concept of a dumbed-down ALIENS cartoon for the 6-12 year old boy market was undeliverable and there was simply no show to develop with the concept and was seen as a creative dead end. This works with the theory that the suits over at Fox saw the pilot and killed it before the monster was unleashed on the Earth. After all, fans were very upset with the ALIEN 3 film, and some felt that this cartoon would have further alienated the core fans and future fans. If it was cancelled, then why was there toys and not a cartoon series? That was because by the time the studio made up their minds to end the cartoon, the toys were in the stores and Kenner could not simple withdraw the toys. The original 1992 toyline packaging carried the name Operations: ALIENS until 1993. So, where is the pilot? It is likely that master tapes that contain this unholy spawn are locked away in some 20th Century Fox warehouse in Hollywood, like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or it could be in some South Korean studio room, packed away in a box. However, while the cartoon was cancelled in the summer of 1992, we still have pieces of this cancelled project…

The Remnants of Operation: ALIENS
With the sudden cancellation of the Operations: ALIENS cartoon project in late summer 1992, it was not a simple matter to cancel the entire endeavor all together, and some of the remnants of the stillborn cartoon series made it to market, besides the Kenner toyline.

The 1994 Trading Cards by Den Beauvais
Sometime two years after the mercy-killing of the Operations: ALIENS cartoon, noted artist Den Beauvais, who illustrated some of the early Dark Horse ALIENS comics was commissioned by Topps card in 1994/1995 for a series of ALIENS themed-cards. The series seems to be based of the 1992 Operation: ALIENS, and incorporate elements of the settings and characters, The thing is that these cards portray a more interesting story than the mini-comics or the attempted cartoon. These are beautifully done and look better than anything else that was tied to Operations: ALIENS.  
The Operations: ALIENS Combat Board Game
One of products that was directly tied to the aborted cartoon was the 1993 Operations: ALIENS Combat Board Game developed by Peter Pan Playthings. Built for 2-4 players who used nicely done plastic Marine characters along with Ripley to navigate an infested human vessel. The heart of the game mechanics is roll-and-move-with-cards variety. There were two card types: event and ALIEN cards. When Xenos and Space Marines are in close proximity, they fight using a two dice rolling system...which only one dice was included. The end goal is to collect pieces of an the self-destruct code, and once that is achieved, you make to the bridge, enter the codes and man the escape pods. To be honest, this sounds like the much better 1987 Xenophobe video game. One of the few reviews online about the game talks how simple this game was and how underdeveloped portions of it were. Some cards lack art, and overall the game was lacking polish. According to this review, the board game as in development for sometime, and almost wasn't released.

The TIGER Operations: ALIENS handheld electronic game
Prior to the revolution in handheld gaming or even phones, TIGER Electronics was infamous for developing simple gaming systems for any client or product. These were very simple gaming platforms and were cheap, and found seemingly everywhere. For some products, this was an easier way to break into the video game market at less cost, and Operations: ALIENS was wanting to spread their message into the video game market before developing their own proper Operations: ALIENS video game. Yes, there were rumors of an mainstream Operation: ALIENS video for then current home gaming consoles. This TIGER handheld game was never released, due to the cancellation of the cartoon series, but it looks like it was in the final finished stage prior to full scale production.


The Kenner Operation: ALIENS Mini-Comic Books
Packaged in the original release of the Kenner ALIENS toyline in 1992, was a series of mini-comics depicting the world of Operation: ALIENS. Mini-comics are not a new concept, ATARI used mini-comics in several of their 2600 releases and were believed to be a good way to further connect the brand and develop play situations. This was also a way to develop the world of Operations: ALIENS, which was a separate reality to the rest of the ALIENS universe. I read these online via scans of the original mini-comics, and they are just shit. Pretty shit. The setting and dialog are simply stupid, and the Colonial Marines are called Space Marines. Someone alert Games Workshop! This only furthered my sense of betrayal.

Next Time on FWS...
One of the most celebrated and feared soldiers on the battlefield is the sniper. The tools of the sniper is many, including stealth, and other elements of their fieldcraft, but their primary tool is the much misunderstood "sniper rifle". In the next installment of the continuing FWS Armory blog-serial, we be examining the tools of the sniper: the sniper rifle. Here, we will be exploring what really is a sniper rifle and what is not.

04 October 2014

FWS Topics: My Definition of War

I received an email from FWS reader Rodney Kelly, and he posed me a question that pulled me away from the TCU/OU game that my wife and I were watching (she and I went to TCU. Go Frogs!). He asked me about my own definition of war. Over the course of these four years, FWS has discussed war in nearly every single blogpost (over 400), and I thought after the question posed by Mr. Kelly, I should define war in my own words. If you have a personal definition of war, please comment and share your own definition of war. To let you know, I have a degree in History and the majority of my time at university, the papers I wrote were concerning war in one form or another. War itself both fascinates me and disgust me. But, I grimly realize there will always be wars, heroes and victims, along with graves and hard memories.
War is the armed conflict between groups of varying size, and is fought for various reasons that are both known and unknown to the people waging the war, the governments and peoples paying for them, and the civilians caught in the middle. It can be offensive or defensive, noble or selfish. To me, war is one (if not the) of the primary force-of-change in the history of our species and our planet as a whole. It is both the yin and the yang of human history: it both destroys and saves. There is nearly nothing else that has so defined and altered the course of history more than war. Even from the earliest days of our species, groups have fought groups. The outcome of these conflicts, changed the course of how every day since would unfold. War saves governments and people, while it scatters people and destroys governments.
It changes the borders and boundaries of land, and the peoples who dwell within them. It spreads religions, DNA, sickness, and culture. It forces the evolution of technology and knowledge, while destroying culture, technology, and knowledge. War, as an endeavor of human energies and knowledge, is one of the most pointed and focused. War can bring the best out of us as a species, or arise ancient demons allowing humans to commit unspeakable crimes against the very soul of humanity.
War just does not alter the course of the soldiers' lives on the battlefield or the government involved, but the people left behind by the wars fought: the families. The ultimate cost of war is reaped by the families. While most wars are fought to save families, it also does destroy families and the future of families. Families are displaced by war, and their family members are killed either by direct involvement or by a miscalculation of bombs and morals. It causes some people never to come home, and wipes out entire bloodlines from the face of the Earth. Families bear the cost of battles, caring for the returning soldiers or weeping over gravestones. While a people remember the war and the outcome, the family remembers the soldier. In summary, War is humanity at most heroic and it most sadistic. It is the duality of man in a single word.

"In War, there are no unwounded Soldiers"
-Jose Narosky


29 September 2014

What We Will Fight Over: MARS


Mars has always been a world with secrets, and that has propelled mankind to launch dozens of unmanned exploration missions to the Red Planet in the vain hope of understanding the enigma that has captured imaginations of man since ancient times. Even with orbiting satellites and robotic rovers, Mars is like any woman, refusing to give up all of her secrets. This has driving mankind's long-held desire for manned missions to the 4th planet. In my lifetime, mankind will travel to the cold red deserts of the fourth rock from the sun and plant flags, and soon after, off-world colonies. What we find there, and how Terran society progress (or regresses) will determine if Mars is a second home to humanity or a battleground. In this installment of the What We Will Fight Over blogpost serial, FWS will be examining the truth behind sci-fi's love of setting future conflicts on the rust red sands of Mars and if the genesis of future wars will be for the control of Mars. By the way, Kim Stanley Robinson's excellent Red/Blue/Green Mars books are not mentioned in the sci-fi examples section...I simply could not find enough online about the revolt in the 3rd book without reading the novels...and with a newborn in the house, I could not devote the time. If you have read the novels, please comment and tell FWS about the trilogy and the revolt.

Fighting on Mars and Fighting for Mars

In this blog serial, FWS attempts to answer the question of the genesis of future conflicts. There is little doubt in my mind, that like many places on Earth, Mars will be a site of future conflicts, much like Luna or Belgium. This will depend on how important Mars is to humanity and how easy it is to get to the red planet. These will determine if these future conflicts will be just waged on Mars or for it. Fighting over Mars would be for its minerals or some other resources we are not yet aware of, or even a war of independence by Mars-born humans. Science fiction portrays the future of Mars the same way: either the war is over Mars or just fought on the planet itself because people just happen to live there. In this blogpost, FWS will be mainly discussing wars fought over Mars.   

The Possible Roots of War
Why would Terrans and Martians fight? Some creators tell us that since Mars will be one of the first humanity off-world colonies, that by the time we push out further and beyond the solar system, Mars will have grown into more complex society than most pioneer colonial sites. That complexity could lead to a lack of dependence and loyalty to Terra and the “mother” society. These newly minted "Martians" could desire for their own destiny to be under their own control and government that was not some 6-8 months away. This has happened before. While the revolution of the American colonies against the rule of Britain could be chalked up to several core reasons, one is that we moved on and developed their own independent society. Many pioneer types have forged their communities and live-styles when striking out on their own. After all, living on Mars could mean living in underground communities due to the radiation. This happens with children when they move away from home and began having their own families. Other creators, like Kim Stanley Robinson and Ashely Wood have said that independent thinking Martian society will attempt new social models or even "workers’ paradise", and this could forge a frosty relationship between the red and blue planets. 

The Likelihood of an Martian War
The likelihood of a war on the red planet really depends on what really is on the surface Mars and under the sands and rocks once we get to these cold deserts. As I said above, if humans go to Mars and setup permit colonies, at some point, there will be an armed conflict of some kind. However, a "big" Martian War does depend on what secrets and treasures lay on and under the red planet. Some articles I've read on online suggest that Mars is no place for future space miners to get rich. 
While the meteorites and the volcanos are good candidates for resources, Mars lacks the riches found on other solar system worlds and especially asteroids. Soil samples have shown iron, aluminum, and magnesium, but nothing worth the cost of transport to Terran business and customers. The best region for mining on Mars is the Tharsis Region. One of the present debates on Mars could determine the future of mankind on the red planet: how much water is on Mars? If the planet lacks water in great supply, and this could limit the amount of settlement and desirability of Mars, lessening the opportunity for war. If there is enough ice under the deserts and rocks, it would mean water resources, allowing for greater colonization. Some have suggested that a outpost on Mars or even the moons, could be a logically place for harvesting asteroids and being a hub for asteroid mined minerals being shipped back to Terra. That could be the genesis of an red planet wars. Wars fought on and over Mars could increase if Mars is ever terraformed, and becomes an 2nd homeworld of humanity if climate change renders Terra impossible to live on.   
However, the real reason we might fight over Mars is not minerals, but lost relics and ruins. Since the Mariner 9 mission in 1971, photos have been coming back from Mars that may or may not show ruins of a vast civilization on the same level as the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. This is not just contained to vast engineered structures, but also odd bits of scattered technology, and even art work. The internet was a buzz about a female statue that Spirit discovered in 2007 as seen in JPL photo PIA102014. Could this be the real genesis of future wars on the red planet? After all, wars waged over alien ruins have been featured in Total Recall, Stargate, Mass Effect and Semper Mars. Of course, all of this assumes that Richard Hoagland is right, and there really are ruins of Mars and NASA is covering up the evidence. 

Martian War of Independence?
One of the most common conflicts involving Mars in sci-fi is the Martian Revolt scenario, when the "Martians” attempt to form an independent red planet from the blue planet and their controlling government or evil coporation. The concept of a Martian war of independence has been a very popular root of future conflicts in science fiction and was seen in the mainstream works like the Babylon 5 TV series and the Red Faction video games. Even I have been guilty of trope of sci-fi, including a liberated independent Mars in my own novel: Endangered Species
These future conflict scenarios depend largely on if these Martians can sustain their own population without the help of Terra and her resources. Given the length of travel time between Terra and Mars, any operation on Mars of any size would need to be mostly self-sustaining, and some believe that any Martian settlement would use 3D printer technology and the materials found in the soil to forge tools and machinery. But 3D printers can only get us so far...for there to be a fully independent Mars, all of the red planet’s needs would have to be met via other resources in the solar system. If the independent Mars settlement survived, they could compete with Terra for intersystem resources and real estate. This could lead to wars between Terrans and Martians. Of course, if Mars was to be the site of valuable ore that is unknown to us today, and their is profit to be made from its extraction, Mars and the workers could be under tight control, especially if Earth was depend on this Martian product. Such was the vehicle for red planet revolts in Zone of the Enders and Red Factions
Why Are Wars on Mars so Popular in Science Fiction?
Mars has mystified and inspirited mankind since it was discovered that there was a red planet in our solar system. The mystery only deepened with the aid of telescopes, as canals, ice caps, and vegetation bands were seen. This fueled visions of alien life struggling to bring water from the caps to their cities. Mars was world under the force of desertification. These "canals" caused Mars to be featured in some of the earliest science fiction stories, as the source of alien invasions.  This trend started with the very first genuine science fiction novel, War of the Worlds in 1898 featuring alien invasion from Mars. Within the same year of publication, there was the non-official sequel, Edison’s Conquest of Mars also in 1898, that expanded on this theme of alien invaders from Mars. This theme continues today with the films like John Carter of Mars.  
Another reasons for the popularity of Mars based conflicts is also due to the proximity to Earth, and similarity to Earth's deserts. After all, Mars appears more similar to New Mexico than truly alien planetary environments like Venus or Titan. With Mars being basically next door in terms of galactic distances, allows for Mars to be a logically "next big step" for manned space flight. In conjunction with the planetary environment, Mars seems like a logical site for Terran colonization, and could be the foundation of human spreading out into the solar system, and beyond. This could propel Mars to boast the second largest human population within a few hundred years, and a separate "Martian" society. This is one of the reasons why "revolts on the red planet" are popular in science fiction.
Oddly, while Mars was often the site of alien invasions by dying civilizations in sci-fi, space probes to the red planet soon revealed that there could be something in open rust-colored deserts and valleys to support the claims. Images that possibly showed pyramids, faces, statues, and fortresses  were the subject of countless books, websites, and direct-to-video specials. All of this supports what my friend John says: "Mars is a super creepy place." Of course, the most obviously reason is that Mars is named for the Roman war god, and this gives Mars a violent air to it along with being red in color. Even Holst’s score for red planet reflects that.     

Examples:

The Martian Independence Movement from the Babylon 5 Universe
According to B5, Mars is the oldest off-world settlement with a colony being established in 2155 by the private exploration firm, IPX. For one hundred years, Mars established itself as a center of scientific research, mining, and a place where companies and the governments could hide clandestine activities. All of this was under the control of EarthGov. By the 2250’s, Mars had a population of over one million with a number of domed cities and underground structures. 
Some governments and corporations used Mars as a place for secret research, drawing the hatred of native Martians. Much like there were divisions among ethnic and racial groups on Earth, the same was true with native born Martians and Terrans. This only seperated the two planets further and further. However, the worse was to come during the bloody Earth-Minbari War. During the war, Mars stated that it was neutral in the conflict, and the Minbari fleets passed by Mars on their way to Earth. EarthGov would not forget this, and after the chaos after the war, EarthGov cut back the food shipments to Mars, leading the Food Riots of 2251 and fueling the fever of red planet independence. By the 2260's, the situation had grown much worse, and President Clark used forced when several of the Earth Alliance colonies along with the Babylon 5 station broke away. No one felt his wrath worse than Mars. After the liberation of Mars from Clark, Mars was given independence, as per the conditions of the Interstellar Alliance. Mars would join the Interstellar Alliance as well as independent world. Mars would      

The Great War from the World War Robot Universe
In the alternate universe of WWR, created by husband-and-wife artists Ashley Wood and TP Louise, Mars is a battleground between the Atheists and the fanatics (I guess I’m moving to Mars). This conflict, called “The Great War”, started in July of 1986 when the Earth Coalition arrested the Martian foreign ministry. In the middle of this conflict was Darwin Rothchild, the founder of Rothchild Corporation, who supplied the combat robots to both sides in the conflict. Many of these war-bots were painted in camouflaged pattern of off-world locations, like Luna, Demios, and Cydonia. Also involved in The Great War are the factions of NOM and the robot pirates of MOD, along with the gasmask wearing Nom de Plume. The atheist settlements on Mars are underground, due to the radiation and thin atmosphere.  
The Mars Rebellion from Two Hour Wargaming's 5150: First Contact
Two Hour Wargaming has a game set in their Star Empire universe on a revolting Mars. The Martian rebels, called “Sahadeen” are waging an open war for their independence from the Earth. The Sahadeen effort are given military and technological aid by the Empire of Gaea Prime. Two Hour Wargaming has produced a line of Earth and Martian 15mm model units can be used for these military science fiction games. Honestly, I love the basic storyline of an Martian revolt being aid by an alien government outside our star system.  









Post-Golden Age Mars from the  Destiny Universe
Mars is shown to be humanity’s first contact with the godly sphere that is known as “the Traveler”. In the Mars cinematic opening, we see three astronauts armed with Colt Commando carbines landing on Mars via a capsule, as they crest a mountain on Mars, they see The Traveler looming over a raining sky. Mars had a sizable population during the mankind’s Golden Age, however, it was also a bloody battlesite as the armies of darkness push back humanity. During the game, the player and their friends acting as Guardians, fight on Mars to liberate the red planet from the grip of darkness. Mars is seen with the ruins of the Golden Age, and an nonbreathable atmosphere

The Crystal War on Mars from Legos' Mars Mission toyline
Even in the realm of Legos, Mars is a hostile place with riches worth fighting over. According to the story, human astronauts undercover special Martian crystals that could the answer to Earth's energy crisis, however, someone else wants them: the aliens. The exploration and mining missions was canceled, and the astronauts armed their vehicles for war. From 2007-2009, Lego would release about 30 sets devoted to the war on Mars. Along with the plastics pieces of joy, Lego also created the popular web-based video game "CrystAlien conflict"allowing players to take control of either alien or human astronaut-soldiers in the fight for the crystals.

The Shadow Raids on Mars from the STARCOM: The US Space Force Universe
Back in 1987, Coleco toys would release a line of military science fiction toys that depicted an near-future US military space force called STARCOM located in combat against the mad scientist Emperor Dark and his space terrorists forces. One of the key elements of the tension between the Shadow Force and the STARCOM is over the alien artifacts recovered on Mars, known as “the Obelisks”. Mars is also the site of the US largest off-world real estate, the domed city known as Aras with a population of over 20,000 civilians, along with a sizable STARCOM presence. Along with industrial and commerce activities, Mars is the site of archeological exploration of the alien ruins belonging to an race known as “the builders”. Shadow forces and STARCOM often crash on the cold deserts of Mars.  




Mars of 1889 from the SPACE: 1889 Universe

The RPG gaming company that developed Traveler, Twilight 2000, and 2300 AD, Games Designer’s Workshop developed a colonial 19th century era space combat game called Space: 1889. Thomas Edison develops the “ether propellant” in 1870’s, allowing for space exploration of Luna, Venus, and Mars. On Mars, the “liftwood” is found, allowing for armed airships to patrol the pink skies of the red planet. On Mars, Terran imperial powers, like France, German, Japan, and the British develop colonial sites and commerce activities with heavy colonial military presences. However, while the red planet is dying, is not unpopulated. Three different Martian civilizations occupy Mars: the Canal Martians, the Hill Martians, and the High Martians. Some of these are hostile to the Terran nations, other attempt to share the red planet with the outsiders, while the more hostile High Martians attack Terran outposts and raid for slaves. Space: 1889 is one of those interesting combinations of history, alternate history, and space opera. I've always personally loved Space: 1889. 

The UAC Mars City from the DOOM Universe
Mars and her moons have been the setting many of the DOOM games, especially the 2005 3rd installment. The United Aerospace Corporation runs an extensive operation on Mars. From the main underground city to countless little labs and bases, the UAC as invested billions into their Mars operations along with thousands of employees and contractors. We all know the type of combat seen in the games, but the 3rd game added the mythos of ancient and wiped out Martian species that developed the Soul Cube to defeat the spawn of Hell. DOOM 3 used the longheld enigma of Mars to full advantage here.  It is rumored that the fourth reboot DOOM will also feature Mars or her moons as the backdrop to the war against Hell.

The Zio-Matrix Mars Coup from Armored Corps II
In the 4th Armored Corps mech-combat video game, the second largest Terran company, Zio-Matrix embarks on a terraforming mission on the red planet, attracting the attention of other corporations and mercenary units. This disrupts the plans that Zio-Matrix had for their Blue Mars, and the results in the Three Company War on Mars. Towards the end of the war, the Zio-Matrix attempts an coup against the Earth government based on Mars. Your character is a member of the Ravens PMC mecha group, and your job is to save Mars and her civilians from Zio-Matrix and prevent the Earth government of Mars from collapsing. I played Armored Corps 2 back in 2003, and liked the game pretty well, and was impressed by sweet mecha combat on the surface of Mars. 









Faction Conflicts from Mars: War Logs
The French game developer Spiders created an action RPG for the PC and latest home console systems called Mars: War Logs in 2013. Set an hundred years after massive losing revolt, Mars is experiencing hard times, where water and basic needs are the order of the day. Added to this are various factions and heavy-handed government forces. Mars is also plagued by radiation and mutant species. Mars: War Logs is a unique setting for a Martian wars, especially the cyberpunk ascept.

The Martian Mine Workers Revolt from the Red Faction Universe
Since 2001, the Red Faction series has been exploring and fighting a war of Martian independance from the evil Ultor Corporation. In 2075, a dying Earth is reliant on the mining of Mars to support the blue world, and Utlor Corporation is the main company involved in the mining of Mars. Attempting to reap bigger profits, worker conditions are bad, leading to a vast sickness with no known cure. After the arrival of an Terran named Parker, and an incident when a Utlor guard kills an miner, the Mars mining workers revolt. Given the popularity of Red Faction, this game continued the seeding of the theme of Martian workers revolting and attempting to liberate themselves from a evil Terran corporation in sci-fi. More games in the Red Faction series have been released. 


The Attack on Mars Base Sara from ROBOTECH and Macross
In the groundbreaking anime series, ROBOTECH, Mars was once home to an fairly large military/scientific base, called Sara. The Sara Base was established during or just before the Global Civil War, and Lisa Hayes had her first love, Karl Riber stationed here to avoid the chaos on Earth. At some point, other human forces attacked and wiped out Sara Base and the personnel or force them off of Mars. In the original Macross series, anti-unification factions after the Global Civil War force the evacuation of Sara Base. During their escape, the terrorist forces attack their ship in a captured space destroyer, and kill the base personnel, including Karl Riber.
In the recent ROBOTECH: Invasion comics, it was started that a scout force of Zentraedi were responsible for the base being abandoned. In the 7th episode of ROBOTECH, the SDF-1 lands on Mars after an radio signal is picked up. Captain Gloval believes that Sara Base would be a good opportunity to restock in supplies. However, Zentraedi forces are waiting. The result is the SDF-1 being held captive by alien gravity mines, and a desperate battle on the ground of Sara Base by the RDF. Lisa Hayes overloads the reflex generator to destroy the mines, allowing the SDF-1 to escape. Mars is never reoccupied by Earth Forces.  Of course, in the 3rd Generation of ROBOTECH, it is said repeatedly that REF Scott Bernard spent time on Mars, and belongs to the 21st Mars Battalion. The series never makes it clear on how Bernard and Mars are connected, and it seems to be holdover from the original MOSPEADA anime series.

The Enders Revolt from the Zone of the Enders Universe
In 2173, the citizens of the planet Mars, called "Enders" by the Terrans revolt against the heavy-handed Terran government. Much like the other Enders revolt in the solar system, the Orbital Frame mecha is used as the tool of revolt and liberation. These mecha are based on the technology that is powered by the "Metatron" ore found on the Joviah moon of Callisto. The NES Gameboy Advance  Zone of the Enders 2001 game; the Fists of Mars is fully devoted to the plight of the Mars Enders revolt.


The Federals vs. the Mutant Rebels from Total Recall (1990)
In the 1990 film Total Recall, Mars, settled by the "Northern Bloc" at great expense, and with the Cold/HotWar on Earth between the different political entities, Mars becomes more important with the discovery of "turbinium". One of the main reasons for the massive Martian Federal colonies on Mars was this mysterious ore-fuel that the Federal mined called "turbinium". The film never makes the role of this turbinium clear in the economics of 2084, but it could be taking the place of conventional fossil fuels on Terra. Some fans have speculated that trubinium is like Helium-3 and powers military space vehicles. This fuel and the its importance on the Northern Bloc's war effort, allows for major dick-bag Vilos Cohaagen to be an dictator with absolute rein over the population. While the trubinium flows, he stays in power. One of the elements screwing with Cohaagen was the mutant uprising that was led by Kuato. The mutants were created from some of the first settlers of Mars that were exposed to radiation via cheap domes that Cohaagen. These mutants are the untouchables of the Mars Federal Colonies and as long as Cohaagen is in power, they will never be more than outsiders. News reports are fulled with bombs, protests, and gunbattles fought between the mutants and the Mars Federal Police. All that changes when Quaid comes back to Mars, and finally removes Cohaagen from power.

Next Time On FWS...
Without a doubt 1986's ALIENS altered my life, and forged my deep passionate love affair with military science fiction. For me, this film and its universe are holy, and worthy of praise and worship. However, if it makes money, someone will exploit it for cold hard cash, and that is what Kenner did with their attempted (and stillborn) Operation: ALIENS cartoon series that was going to tie into the Kenner ALIENS toyline of 1992-1995...which was the same time I was in high school. In the next installment of Military Sci-Fi Oddities, FWS will be exploring and attempting to explain the effort by Kenner to create an ALIENS cartoon for kids.