Jun 6, 2016

[Movies] The Martian (2015)

I often make fun of the movie awards season - you know that period towards the end of the year when different studios shift to releasing much more serious movies that are clearly designed to stand a chance at getting nominated for an award or to. It's a weird quirk of Hollywood in order to ensure the movie remains fresh in the minds of votes when it does come time to make a decision.

The Martian came out a little earlier than that period, but you'd be foolish not to consider that this movie was right up there with the other Oscar hopefuls. but to be fair, it's a pretty epic movie and one that felt like it wanted to put a bit more effort into getting the science more or less right, which reminds us of other heavy science fiction movies like Gravity and Interstellar.

It took me a while before finally getting around to watching this movie for no particular reason. We missed it when it came out in theaters and so we ended up waiting for the home video release.

And no I rather regret not having watched this movie sooner.

Synopsis: The Martian is a 2015 science fiction drama movie directed by Ridley Scott. The screenplay by Drew Goddard was adapted from the novel of the same name by Andy Weir.

It's 2035 and we have people on Mars. To be specific, we have the brave crew of the Ares III  on a manner mission to the red planet. As luck would have it, a particularly violent dust storm threatens their only way off planet, thus forcing them to make an emergency evacuation from the planet much earlier than planned. In the confusion, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is believed killed in the storm and is left behind. However by some miracle Mark barely survived and manages to get himself to the safety of their habitat before his suit becomes fully compromised and deprived of oxygen. With no immediate way to call for help or even expect any rescue, Mark starts to go about finding a way to stay alive all alone on Mars.

Based on the setup, it feels like this movie was almost fated to become Castaway but in space, in a manner of speaking. Thankfully the movie was not an end-to-end Matt Damon celebration. While he remained the protagonist and the larger focus of the movie, there's still a lot of other things that happened involving other characters and other parts of the story that contributed to the efforts to bring Mark home. And that did make for a richer story.

At the same time, Mark isn't exactly a useless character, and thus the movie does not become Saving Private Ryan or anything like that. And as absurd as it sounds when first mentioned in the movie, Mark turns out to be a botanist and is perhaps uniquely qualified to figure out how to grow his own food supply in sufficient quantities to last the many years before the next manned mission is scheduled to return to the red planet. And Matt Damon is oddly believable in this respect, despite how many times he has manage to come across more as a thug than as an intellectual in one of these movies.

The movie is very, very grounded and thus all the plans related to Mark's survival or his possible rescue by the folks balk on Earth involves some decent scientific conjecture and a fair amount of logical reasoning. And the joy of this movie was how such efforts were presented in a way that made it all feel quite exciting.

Sure, we didn't have any odd horror element in a space setting or we didn't have aliens making a surprise appearance or anything. Instead it's about one guy on Mars trying to conquer the planet with farming while folks back on Earth work on a way to get him home once they get around to realizing that he's still alive. And if you're into that sort of effort to portray science fiction in a manner that is more logic and reasoning as opposed to being closer to magic, then this movie will totally work, Matt Damon and all.

The Martian is indeed a powerful movie that has its own story to tell, albeit feeling like many scenes or themes were already present in other movies. It's definitely a movie that is worth seeing. Thus the movie gets a great 4.5 challenge of being alone on Mars out of a possible 5


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