I finally got a short break to watch The Martian, which has been on my TBW pile for some time now. And I am now beating myself up for not seeing it sooner. I loved it, every second of it.
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is the botanist for the Ares 3 Mission to Mars when a sudden dust storm forces the crew to abort and evacuate halfway into their mission . During the evacuation, Mark is hit by debris, destroying his comm link with the crew. Believing that Mark did not survive and left with no choice but to leave the planet, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) orders the launch without him. But Mark actually didn’t die and when he regains consciousness, he finds himself alone in a planet with only his wits and the remaining resources of the team to survive until the next mission arrives four years later.
If ever there was going to be an astronaut stuck in space, I would want him/her to be Mark Watney. The character is such a wiseass that even if the situation seems dire, and he is on the brink of death, audiences won’t really feel depressed, because his monologue is so natural and so hilarious that they would find it close to impossible not to like him. Mark’s optimism is contagious, and even when things are all going south, his determination compels the audience to root for him.
The supporting cast Jeff Daniels (NASA Director Teddy Sanders), Chiwetel Ejiofor (NASA Mars Mission Director Vincent Kapoor), Sean Bean (Ares Mission Director), as well as the crew members of the ARES 3 Mission rounded out by Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena and Aksel Hennie all made an impact on the movie. It took me a while to get used to Kristen Wiig in a serious role but she came through. I like how they projected their camaraderie in the face of the problem, which was very touching. Even when they had differences in opinions, I’m happy that for once, politics took a backseat for the good of one man. The implication of international cooperation in the face of a crisis. It sends such a positive message and I’m all for it.
I loved how the film, based on Andy Weir’s novel with the same name, laid out the story, and managed to distribute the lighter moments and the more emotionally demanding scenes in different parts of the movie. While Mark usually made light of his situation, Matt Damon was able to convey his desperation and frustration at the various challenges that he had to overcome to survive alone in an entire planet. Kudos to Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott for being able to approach the film with both seriousness and lightness that is needed for the movie and doing it effectively.
Another thing that really got me hooked to the movie was the science behind it and the matter of fact way they approached the geekdom associated with scientists, especially when they referred to Project Elrond. It was so fun when they ganged up on Kristen Wiig’s character because she had no idea about their Lord of the Rings references. There were also references to the actual Mars missions when they brought up Pathfinder that landed on Mars in 1997. It was really cool how the story incorporated real life references to lend more credence to the material.
Compared to Gravity, which was also an out of space survival way, The Martian employed a totally different approach and went the opposite direction but both were brilliant in their own way.
All in all, I hardly felt that the movie was over two hours long because I was so absorbed by every inch of the material. Its a super cool, super fun movie, which is weird to say for a film revolving around someone stranded on a barren planet but blame it on Commander Lewis’ dance music and Matt Watney’s smart mouth if you will. For me, a definite must watch.