Ridley Scott’s big releases so far have been epic (Exodus: Gods and Kings), fabulously cast (The Counselor), promising (Prometheus) but somehow not quite reaching the heights of his fan favorites: Alien, Bladerunner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and even Thelma and Louise.
So it’s great to see the maestro back in fine form with The Martian. He’s back in outer space but he’s working with a sense of humor, and if you can believe it, some disco music. Also not the absence of an evil alien race out to end us all. All this is quite fun and refreshing considering the mostly serious and sometimes rather heavy dialogue and subject matter of many of his films.
The Martian is based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir. A storm threatens the crew of the Ares III Mission on Mars. Five of the six astronauts barely manage to escape in a mad rush, one—Mark Watney (Matt Damon)—is presumed dead.
Watney got knocked out and his communication turned faulty. And now he finds himself alone on Mars—average distance from Earth, being about 225 million kilometers.
As Watney puts on one of his first Go Pro videos, which he records for no one but himself: “This will come as quite a shock to my crew mates. And to N.A.S.A. And to the world. But I’m still alive. Surprise!”
What is he going to do with the resources he’s left with on the planet? And what is NASA going to do when they find out someone they declared dead really isn’t?
The Martian has shades of Saving Private Ryan but is much lighter, Interstellar but with the science more easily graspable, and Guardians of the Galaxy because of its fun, throwback soundtrack. It’s a great story (and I wish it were true) about tenacity, the human spirit, inventiveness the wonders of science and the incredible usefulness of duct tape.
The film also has a great support cast: Jessica Chastain (as head of the mission, Melissa Lewis), Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan (a.k.a The Winter Soldier), Sean Bean and ChiwetelEijofor.
On a final note, I must quote Peter Vonder Haar, “Hell, Sean Bean’s in this movie and he doesn’t die. It doesn’t get much more feel-good than that.”
The Martian opened September 30 and is on its second week. It is out in 2D and 3D formats.