Sunday, October 18, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Martian

The Martian
Directed by Ridley Scott
Released October 2, 2015

Space travel has come a long way since the advent of film, sending many men and women into space and on expeditions of varying lengths. One trope of film hasn’t changed, and that’s the notion that something will always inevitably go wrong. Director Ridley Scott is especially familiar with this premise, helming the classic “Alien” in 1979 and then returning to the same idea of “In space, no one can hear you scream” with the thrilling “Prometheus” in 2012. Scott is back in space again, but this time with a distinctly different story that starts from a similar place of panic but takes an altogether lighter and more entertaining direction.

“The Martian” begins on a comedic note, with astronauts on Mars’ surface joking around, but the mood quickly turns as a violent storm approaches, causing Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) to abort the mission over the objections of botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who believes it is still viable. During the evacuation, Mark is hit by a flying piece of shrapnel and all communication with him is lost. Presuming him dead, the crew leaves the planet surface, and it is only some weeks later that NASA realizes that there is still someone very much alive and at work trying to stay that way on Earth’s neighbor.

Rather than present Mark’s situation as impossibly grim, “The Martian,” with its clever and fitting name, shows Mark as the ultimate survivor, someone who makes himself laugh as he is recording video logs that may never be seen by anyone, congratulating himself on his excellent ideas and brilliance. Unlike “Gravity,” this is not a story of a man completely isolated, since limited contact between Mark and NASA enables him to know that someone else is aware of his existence and trying to coach him through it. Naturally, the film succeeds best when Mark is on his own since it is incredible to see just how he deals with adversity, embracing humor all the time, even when moments of crisis and certain doom are just around the corner.

Damon carries this film with his energy and spirit, infusing Mark with a relentless ability to entertain himself and actually make smart decisions that help to save his life at the same time. A supporting ensemble playing those at NASA and on Mark’s crew, led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, and Jessica Chastain, contributes dutifully to the overall experience of the film, cheering Mark on as he works towards an impossible survival. The landscape of Mars proves very effective as well, and this slightly sci-fi story of triumph is a resounding and thoroughly enjoyable success that highly recommends cinematic space travel for years to come.

B+

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