Ever wonder what it would like to be the only person on an inhabitable planet with not quick, safe or secure way back to Earth? Andy Weir’s novel The Martian published in 2011, film adaption capture’s the essence and desperation of that rare situation.
The science fiction genre involving space exploration and its dangers seems to be having a moment in the early 2010s with both Gravity and Interstellar having been considered iconic films of the decade. Perhaps it is the combination of creativity and realism that draw audiences to films of this nature. While this film isn’t as far-fetched as the two mentioned above, the science used and explained is more believable and the plot both well constructed and straightforward.
The Martian film stars Matt Damon, who was most recently in Interstellar, its dangers and was directed by Ridely Scott. Damon’s character, Mark Watney, is carried away during a sandstorm and, when presumed dead by his crew, is left as they evacuate their mission and head back to Earth. Except of course, he’s not dead. He’s alive, alone and stranded on Mars, a planet that is 140 million miles away from Earth, without a way to communication with NASA or his fellow crewmembers.
Much of this film and its screenplay rely heavily on science, and Watney is able to survive through his ingenious use of the resources he has and because of his understanding of math and science. His survival and rescue never lean or depend on divine intervention but on the foundation and admiration of science, its possibilities and all the genius minds in the film.
There is an inherent enjoyment in watching intelligent people tackle and persevere over seemingly impossible challenges, which sets up The Martian for several payoffs and satisfaction. This theme begins early on.
As soon as Watney regains consciousness and realizes what’s happened, he also realizes he’s been impaled by a piece of metal. Without the assistance of medical personnel, he must perform surgery on himself and remove the embedded piece of shrapnel from his gut.
From there, the situation only worsens. He comes to terms with the fact that he has been left for dead, quite literally, and begins to ration his food – even with extreme potion control, he would never be able to survive before NASA could send a rescue mission. But being a botanist he devises a way to grow and sustain food on Mar’s but setbacks still arise later in the film.
Though there are plenty obstacles, often when the audience feels safe enough to relax, they never feel contrived but are rather realistic setbacks. The structure of the film keeps things moving forward while amping up the urgency as time goes on. The film is relentlessly realistic in its portrayal of Watney’s duration on the planet and struggles he faces on Mars. At times, it was similar to watching a documentary.
Watney’s character tracks his progress and survival through video diaries in case he does not make it, which helps the audience understand his problem solving procedures, character development and internal thoughts to get to know him as a three dimensional character. The loneliness, desperation and existential urgency of his predicament is the film is littered with unexpected humor that breaks the tension during science where it seems the mission to remain alive is beyond reach.
The scenes that occur on Mar’s are explicably more exciting to watch and analyze than those that take place on Earth, the ones that include NASA are captivating and vital to the plot. Back on Earth there is a bureaucratic battle that is being fought over Watney’s fate between NASA administrator and others who are less adverse to risk. Those at NASA must decide whether to rescue Watney, how, when and is it worth it?
On Earth and in space, the diversity in the cast is better than average. There is a female captain of the mission who isn’t in a romantic relationship with Damon’s character, a Latino astronaut and one other female on the Mars mission. There is a slew of Asians, African Americans and women who work at NASA and aren’t; used as throw characters but actively help with the plot.
Being a Scott film the aesthetic is faultless from a technical standpoint. The photography is great and communicates the awe encompassing, inspiring and terrifying scope of alien topography Watney is trapped on. The red planet coming to live through it’s vast landscape deprived of any living creature except for one.
The Martian is flawless in its pacing, dialogue and characterization. It handles the magnitude of outer space and the vulnerability of human life with a delicate hand that leaves the audience on the edge of the seat long after the climax of the film ends.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Reviews
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