Sunday, October 4, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

The Martian is about the human spirit: driven to overcome, to survive. While the title and most of the running length focus on astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his lone struggles on desolate Mars, the movie emphasizes that the united effort of diverse actors is the key to ensuring that Watney can return to Earth.

The trailers tell the essential story: a storm forces the crew of the Ares 3 mission to abort and return home. Watney is hit by debris on the way back to the ship, and is presumed dead by his commander and other crew members. Watney wakes up the next day and must face the enormity of his situation: he's trapped on a planet inhospitable to human life, with only 31 days of supplies -- and the next manned mission is scheduled in four years.

Science to the rescue!!! Watney methodically plans for his long-term survival, taking stock of existing supplies and creating a solution to his food situation via poop and to his water situation via fire. He explains it all as he does it, don't worry. I'm pretty sure this film inspired a bunch of young people to go into STEM fields, just so they can be awesome like Watney. I approve.

There are a great many pleasures in this latest Ridley Scott space adventure. The most welcome one is the writing: all the characters are smart and make calculated decisions, from Watney to the hard-nosed NASA Director (Jeff Daniels) to the satellite tech (Mackenzie Davis) who first notices that the "abandoned" Mars mission site shows signs of activity. The dialogue is laced with humor -- Watney is full of wisecracks as he makes video logs of his survival plans, perhaps to make his bleak situation more bearable. Kristen Wiig, as NASA's PR Director, has a choice line that drew big laughs; Ares 3 crew member Gonzalez (Michael Peña) has a hilarious apology for leaving Watney behind; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's reactions to NASA's demands are pretty comical; and so on.

As for the soundtrack... hahahaha... let's just say it's also a source of humor.

And I about died when a Lord of the Rings reference appeared and Sean Bean obligingly stepped up. EEEEEEEEEEEEE

Of course, The Martian is beautiful. Mars looks stunning, the set designs are impeccable, and the use of Watney's space suit cams makes for interesting visuals. On Earth, camera work is straightforward, with no gimmicks to distract from the people doing their best to help the Martian.

Overall, this is a wonderful story told extremely well by a talented cast and crew. Props to Matt Damon for being a very likable lead, and to Andy Weir for writing the 2011 book that served as the basis for this film. We have Weir to thank for Watney, his daunting obstacles, and his determination to "science the shit out of this." Hubby read the book and said that the film hews pretty closely to it, with some liberties taken for dramatic effect.

And yes Scott Ridley, this does make up for Prometheus.

TL;DR: Watch immediately.

This post brought to you by coffee, surprise surprise!

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