October 6, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

The Martian has arrived to much fanfare. I have seen some refer to it as a return to form for Ridley Scott. I was going to disagree with that sentiment, but then I looked over his recent filmography, and in my book this is easily his second best film in the past decade. Surprisingly, I had not noticed how many merely decent films he has been making of late. It is a good thing this isn't about his past, it is about his present, which is pretty darn good. The Martian may not be the most exciting film he has made, but there is something quietly excellent about it. It is an entertaining film that features some fine action and covers a lot of ground.

The movie is based on the novel by Andy Weir, the screenplay was handled by Drew Goddard, who has been involved in such films as Cloverfield, Cabin in the Woods, and World War Z. With The Martian, he has helped make a film that carries a lot of his trademarks from other works, good characters, genuine emotion, humor, and some nice tension. The movie manages to keep you wondering what is going to happen, while being both scared and amused at the same time.

Matt Damon is Mark Watley, a botanist and a member of a crew sent to Mars for a little studying and exploration. Early in the mission a violent storm blows through forcing them to abandon their station and begin their trip back to Earth. During the storm, Mark is struck by debris and is left for dead. There is a dedication ceremony, news conferences, and a funeral back on Earth for the fallen astronaut. The problem is that the astronaut is not dead. What follows is a fascinating look into Watley's desire to survive, NASA's debate on a rescue mission and subsequent PR issues, and his team's reaction to him still being alive.

For awhile I was thinking this was turning into the space version of Castaway or The Terminal, and while I think a comparison could be made, it is better than either one of those films. The Martian brings the human element on both sides of the coin. We get to watch Watley as he struggles with the initial depression, then his desire to live, and the creative ways he finds to survive, on the other side we get NASA and his crew dealing with him being alive and struggling with some very difficult decisions they need to make and the time crunch they have to make them work.

I was slowly sucked into the movie, the characters digging themselves in more and more as the movie progressed. It is a quiet film that plays out in moments, it is not built on peaks and valleys. The story builds to a certain level then maintains its pace for more than two hours. We watch the mafic happen, we watch it unfold in a pretty fantastic way.

There is something great in the relative quiet and subtlety of The Martian. This is a movie that, somewhat like Tomorrowland from earlier this year. It is a movie that focuses its attentions on the positive side of life. This is not an action movie about getting the bad guy, it is not about violence and action, it is about using our brains and will to do something positive, to survive. Looking at it as a movie, from the outside, one will see a movie that seeks to inspire, one that wants us to be interested in science, in possibility. Sure, the science and details of the movie may not be 100% accurate, but so what? If the movie inspires someone to dig a little deeper and be interested, involved, has it not done a good thing? Do the details matter that much? I say no. The Martian is a fine movie that delivers the goods, it is entertaining and inspiring.

Highly Recommended.

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