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THE MARTIAN (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott,
Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood, Mark Huffam
Screenplay by Drew Goddard
Based on The Martian by Andy Weir
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig,
Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean,
Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars (unfortunately presumed dead) after a giant storm forces his crew to emergency evacuate the planet. 

Not knowing what to expect from this movie, I prepared myself for some really depresseing thematic elements based on other lone survivor films, such as Cast Away.

But The Martian is entirely different. 

Instead of focusing on the dreary nature of being alone, it centers on the brilliance of human innovation accompanied with unbreakable humor—an, “I can do it!” attitude.

The Martian is not a sad, defeatist film – it is continuously funny and exciting, and not because of any spectacular action or explosive tension—like say, Gravity—but because it’s so optimistic and engaging, giddy even.

Matt Damon has impeccable delivery (as usual) and invites the audience into his jovial world through video journals and his body-suit cameras.

Always checking in to make sure someone gets his latest joke or pun. This element of the film stimulates the audience, drawing us in organically, so to speak.
 
While Watney has a great sense of humor and confidence about his ability to survive, he still has to figure out a way to eat for four more years, until the next crew arrives on Mars. Not to worry, Mark Watney is the, self-proclaimed, “best botanist on the planet.” Quickly getting to work, he manages to gather materials and machinery from various stations, and farm potatoes.

His methodology is admirable and frustrations genuine, yet brief.

He doesn’t dwell. The Martian gives a great message here—that wallowing doesn’t help, but working hard and problem solving can bring rewards, physically and emotionally.

Don’t weep, sow. (See what I did there?)

So as Mark has luck on his side, of course folks from NASA note movement on Mars via satellite images. Yes! Chiwetel Ejiofor enters the scene accompanied with a great team of scientists, and together, with the reluctant help from the NASA director (Jeff Daniels) they formulate a way to communicate using images and text. NASA expedites the assembly of various vessels (too much vocabulary for me) with the hope of decreasing Mark’s waiting time by almost three years.

Let the excitement continue!

The scientists and various participants in Watney’s rescue mission (a great ensemble including Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, to name a few) are given impossible deadlines but all deliver their stress with appropriate comedic sighs and aspiration.

Side note: I don’t know anything about astrophysics/dynamics or many other scientific subjects covered in The Martian, but the information and strategies seem authentic. And from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty spot-on. Which makes the entire thing even cooler.

I don’t want to leave out the initial crew (which featured Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Michael Peña) that left their fellow astronaut behind (accidentally), because while their roles were the smallest of the film, they weren’t irrelevant, or filler. Everyone did a good job in this film.

The Martian is long, but it goes by quickly. Again, the power of good writing!

And when Damon is hard at work, we get to see the beautiful landscape of Mars that Ripley Scott has presented. The largely 70’s soundtrack (which Watney makes fun of relentlessly) makes the unlivable planet fun and beautiful. Vast landscapes and aerial shots are just awesome.

The Martian is solid. My first film of autumn and it was a damn good way to start.

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