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The Martian - Spoiler-free movie review

Nathan Strum

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Continuing the trend of semi-reality-based science fiction epics set in the undefined yet not-too-distant future that give Neil deGrasse Tyson something to Tweet about, we have The Martian.

Having never read the book, I only had a passing interest in seeing the movie, since from the trailers it looked to be little more than the middle film of a trilogy set between Gravity and Interstellar, explaining how Matt Damon got marooned on a distant planet (although how all of Mars gets sucked through a wormhole remains unexplained). But I did finally get around to seeing it the other week, and it was better than I expected.

The Martian is about an astronaut stranded alone on Mars after a mission goes wrong. Fortunately, he happened to be the only scientist on the mission with the ideal skill set to survive, otherwise it probably would've been a much shorter movie. But if the astronaut Michael Peña played had been stranded instead, it probably would have been a much funnier movie, especially if he was doing his character from Ant-Man. That would've been awesome.

Anyway, as Damon's character begins to figure out how to survive, he finds out that nothing is that easy when you're in a science fiction disaster movie, so even more things have to go wrong, and he has to figure out even more ways to stay alive. And that's pretty-much the whole movie: disaster, tension, solution, relief, repeat (see also: Irwin Allen). Plot-wise, The Martian lies somewhere between Apollo 13 and Gravity, but without the believability of the former, or the ridiculous preposterousness of the latter. Its biggest failing is that it suffers from predictably. Not in how things are going to turn out, but rather in the pacing of the film, so you can always tell when the next "bad thing" is about to happen. You just sort of wait for them to get on with it, get over with it, and move onto the next disaster. (Apparently though, the book had far more such moments, which probably would have pushed the movie into Airplane-like satire territory.)

The plot isn't without other issues, such as some extremely convenient plot devices, and events which really stretch plausibility, even considering the space-disaster-movie genre. Much of what it would actually take to mount some of the missions seen in this film are completely glossed over, or compressed so much as to completely trivialize them. That aside, The Martian is still an enjoyable movie. Thanks mostly to Damon, it's well-acted, it's very well produced with first-rate effects and sets, and as long as you don't think about it too much, it's entertaining enough to kill a couple of hours (although the movie runs a full 24 minutes beyond that :roll: ). And while I'm sure proponents of a manned mission to Mars would likely celebrate this film, if anything it only points to just how unlikely that is to ever happen, since the well-funded, spacefaring NASA of this film is about as far removed from actual reality as is Space: 1999.

Still, I enjoyed the spectacle of it all, and the craftsmanship put into this film alone almost makes it worth seeing on the big screen. After a while, you just sort of buy the fact that Matt Damon is an astronaut marooned on Mars, and that's what a good science fiction film should do.

The Martian gets a respectable 6.5/10. But I can't help but wonder, with George Clooney and Matt Damon now having starred in a couple of these films... can an "Ocean's Eleven in Outer Space" be far behind? Because man, that's a film I'd pay a good 12 bucks to go see.


Up next: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have tickets for 11PM tonight.



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I just watched this this weekend. I think I need to give it another watch sometime when I can devote my full attention to it but from what I saw I wasn't really impressed.

 

I'm a huge fan of the...what would you call it...Castaway genre? One against the world or universe against all odds and manages to survive in their own way and on their own terms. Life of Pi, All is Lost, Silent Running, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Red Dwarf, etc. And even to an extent Black Hole, Master of the World and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fit the bill as these characters cast themselves off from society and live on their own terms.

 

For whatever reason I never really felt that sense of isolation or loneliness that makes these films. Yes, he had some considerable setbacks but I always had the feeling that a solution was right around the corner. And while it was by no means an ideal form of communicating, once they figured out a way to contact him it kind of killed it for me. It just felt like he was locked up in a basement someplace talking over the internet.

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I liked the Martian. It was very entertaining and Matt Damon carried the whole movie on his shoulders. That's rather impressive.

 

It was great fun to watch him play a smarty-pants scientist who keeps screwing up something. Yes, it was formulaic and repetitive, but I think Damon pulled it off in keeping me interested.

 

I'd give it an 8/10. :)

 

-dZ.

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