Now on to The Martian. Read my The Iron Giant review here
Background Time: I feel bad as a Sci-Fi fan for saying this, but I have seen very few Ridley Scott films and none of them have been his more popular ones, with the exceptions of Gladiator and Thelma & Louise, both of which I had to watch for a film class. I haven’t even seen the original Alien yet, though I do own a copy. But for the most part, I know Scott mainly through his reputation as the legendary sci fi director who gave us Blade Runner and the aforementioned Alien. In terms of Matt Damon, I know him mainly through the Bourne trilogy and the Ocean’s trilogy, which my mom and dad are fans of respectively. I also know him through a couple of films I enjoy like True Grit and The Adjustment Bureau.
Also, I haven’t read the original The Martian book, but I do own a copy.
The plot of the movie is that after a sandstorm hits the crew members of a manned Mars mission in the near future circa 2030s, they’re forced to retreat and abort it. However, while making their way to the spacecraft, a piece of equipment breaks off and hits Mark Watney, played by Damon. With no signal from his suit and the storm getting worse, the crew is forced to presume he’s dead and reluctantly take off without him. However, he survives and must find a way to both survive for four years until the next manned mission to Mars lands and find a way to contact NASA to let them know he’s alive, all while NASA tries to find a way to bring him home once they find out.
Really, this film is split into two stories, Watney’s struggle to survive in isolation on Mars and NASA’s big shots and engineers trying to help/ rescue him, all while Damon makes quips, jokes, and pop culture references to the camera ala vlogs to keep his spirits up. Though thankfully he has funny things to say. Know why this is? Because Watney’s not a hard military officer like he’d be in any other movie like this. Instead, he’s a scientist, specifically a botanist, fully able to figure out how to survive in conditions like Mars thanks to both his science and astronaut training. And, of course, Science = Geek, and geeks can be funny when they’re not stereotypes.
Really, if you’ve seen the viral marketing videos for this movie, you know what you’re getting into. All the characters are likable, Benedict Wong as the head of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the head of the Mars mission, Sean Bean (for once NOT dying in a good movie) as a crew supervisor, Donald Glover as the astrodynamicist, etc. and if they do something not likeable, like Jeff Bridges’s character as Head of NASA in a few scenes, they have good reasons, No one questions that Jessica Christian’s Commander Lewis is capable of being in charge because she’s a woman, Michael Peña is just as funny as he was in Ant-Man, and I liked Ant-Man, even if he does have fewer scenes. Ridley Scott is having fun and we are too.
Again, I haven’t read the original book yet, but this film (like most book adaptations I watch) is making me really want to. Dad, I know you read these so can you send me my copy? It’s in my room. Thank you!
The visuals for this film are easily on par with Gravity, for the space scenes. Otherwise, I hope you like looking at red rocks and dust because there are a lot of red rocks and dust. It’s great looking red rocks and dust though. The inside of Watney’s base is actually pretty visually interesting and the Earth scenes don’t just take place in America, but I won’t say anymore for sake of spoilers. Also, I’m no scientist, but the science they’re spouting out does seem mostly accurate to my high school trained ears. I highly doubt the gravity on Mars is the same as in the movie, but the suits were clunky enough to slow them down to make it look heavier than Earth at least.
Also, apparently NASA was heavily involved with the making of the film, probably to gain support for their planned manned mission to Mars, assuming the government quits cutting their budget. The movie was also screened onboard the International Space Station. So, that’s neat.
Honestly, I had a great time at this movie. It’s funny, smart, interesting, it has good characters and visuals, and it’s nice to see Scott take a break from his planned Prometheus sequels…now if we can just get him to focus on an Alien one. There was once a time where we saw space travel as something fun, something exciting and extraordinary, something we hoped we could experience one day, the true Final Frontier. It’s a feeling I think we’ve lost over the years. Well, The Martian just made it fun again.
That’s all for this weekend. I’ll have a review of the new Doctor Who episode sometime this week. Look forward to it!
(Photo via 20th Century FOX)