Movie: The Martian
My Rating: 5 stars
I loved this movie. I’ve always enjoyed sci-fi flicks—especially when they’re of the realistic, possibly could happen in the not too distant future, variety. And, this story about an astronaut who’s been accidentally stranded on Mars fits the bill. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) has been accidentally left on Mars by his crew during an emergency evacuation. They assumed he was dead after he got struck by flying debris during a wild Martian storm. But, guess what? He lived! Now he’s just got to figure out how to stay alive long enough for someone to come rescue him. And, that might not be for another year or more. This is pretty fascinating material. But that being said, the movie was a little puzzling.
The movie can’t really make up its mind whether it’s a serious drama about life and death, or a fluffier comedy. The subject matter is pretty intense. But, every now and then Damon will throw a few really on-the-nose one-liners at the camera, and give his best shit-eating grin. I almost didn’t want to give the studio the satisfaction of making me laugh in response to such pandering. I know that serious films need comic relief from time to time, but in this instance the juxtaposition was a little jarring. But, this complaint didn’t to ruin the film for me at all. It just took me out of the moment a few times. It made me think “Matt Damon” rather than “Mark Watney.” Oh well.
This is a story about survival. The script strands Watney on Mars within the first few minutes on the film, because the story is about what a person would do if placed into this situation—if he were left absolutely alone, with very few resources, on a planet with a hostile environment. A lot of people would curl up and decide to die. Because, most people don’t have the skills or tools to make water, make air, grow food, repair electronic communication equipment, and custom modify their vehicles. But of course, Mark Watney is an elite astronaut with very specialized training, so we can count on him to do a pretty good job of this. But, his situation is still dire enough, and the margins thin enough to keep this story very tense at every moment.
Obviously, I recommend this film. It’s really spectacular. The cinematography is stunning, the acting is natural (in most cases), and I hear the science is accurate. Try to see this movie on the big screen if you can. It really does benefit from the large-scale picture and the surround sound. Of course, there were a few moments where I saw “Hollywood” shining through. I know firsthand that JPL isn’t the shining, sleek, white-and-steel, science palace with mahogany boardrooms as portrayed in the movie. Although, I’m sure the scientists at JPL would love such fancy digs. So, maybe this is a little bit of wish fulfillment (or a sneaky way to get more funding). But, it’s always fun to spot that kind of discrepancy. (Like when a racing scene through the Caucasus Mountains was clearly filmed on the Angeles Crest Highway—Furious 7, I’m looking at you). So, I guess noticing those details only added to my experience. In conclusion, see this film, and soon.