By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Just when you think it’s safe to venture back into space after Chris Nolan’s Interstellar, think again. For actor Matt Damon, what was hinted at in one film says too much in what could happen in his next film, The Martian. Maybe the cosmos believes he’s simply a whipping boy. While his range of films have varied in quality over the years, thankfully he continues trudging on. While under the direction of Ridley Scott, he’s very likeable as Mark Watney, a castaway seemingly left for dead on the planet Mars.
The crew hurriedly left the planet because of a massive dust storm, and people at headquarters are at odds over what to do when everyone realizes Watney is still alive. I wondered how this film would work since it can not mirror the Tom Hanks film where he got lost at sea. Much of that did not have him talking to himself. Scott’s script and the book this movie is based on had Watney chronicling his life, so the people from the next mission can learn from his attempts to terraform the planet. He has to in order to survive, because he’s banking on hope that NASA will discover that he’s still alive.
One big question I have to ask is when will this space agency figure out another method of propulsion to explore space? Ideas and prototypes exist, but none of them have been proven practical until they get past the drawing board. That’s the plot of Interstellar.
Until another method is proven to work, this film uses current technology to show how mankind can explore their own solar system and survive. Most of it is plausible and I can’t wait to see a Mythbusters episode to figure out if the extreme moments can be done or not. I loved the bits where science and mathematics are used to figure out how Damon can survive the harsh planet. Everyday is a struggle. Even better are the geeky moments in reference to computer hacking and pop culture to make this film accessible to nerds like me. I had to wonder when he’d go searching for past Mars missions, the rovers and ‘bots, so he can salvage those parts to make a S.O.S. beacon.
As this film nicely balances itself between what Damon is doing to further his chance for rescue and NASA getting the next rocket ready to get him, eventually the crew of Ares III will learn about the person they left is alive. They face a moral dilemma of either following orders or being a tightly knit crew where they hated leaving anyone behind. To see them discuss it was short and that’s the core of what this film’s plot is about. Had this film been trimmed down to just that, then this movie would’ve been far shorter than its 141 minute runtime.
Scott did a great job in the pacing. The movie did not feel long at all. It had to convey to viewers the sense of more than 600 solar days passing and it worked by jumping ahead to appropriate moments to show how far both Watney and NASA has come to achieving their goals. Now next time, when there’s trouble brewing ahead, maybe the scientists at this space agency can consider the importance of how magnetic shielding can work to keep its spaceships and stations safe from the ravages of the universe. That’s one bit of science missed since Mars was stripped of its magnetosphere long ago. No measure was considered in how to protect everyone from cosmic rays. Just what were they thinking?
4 out of 5 Stars
One thought on “Flying High with The Martian, A Review”
Re: “Just what were they thinking?”
Also Matt Damon in the role after he showed up and ruined Interstellar.
I’m signing the “No more Damon in Sci Fi epics” petition.
Ha! (as Mrs. Crabapple)