Film Review: “The Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott, 2015
Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” opens with a real downer. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind on Mars by his crew, believing he’d died in a storm. I almost expected a gross scenario to follow in the style of “Alien” and “Prometheus,” the other science-fiction films by Scott. But, no, happily this movie is a lot more fun than those two films combined.
The beginning of the film leaves viewers asking, just how on earth would Watney get back to Earth, if at all? He himself answers the question—“I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
From that moment on, the film unfolds as a survivor’s journey that goes up, down, and around the endless hurdles Watney faces. He has to produce from scratch the things we tend to ignore, like water and food. In making water, he says, “Fortunately, I know the recipe. Take hydrogen. Add oxygen. Burn.”
When Watney succeeds in growing potatoes, he says, “They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”
Once NASA realizes that Watney is still alive, the massive endeavor to rescue him commences. Will the rescue mission arrive before he runs out of food and oxygen? Are his crewmates capable of saving him?
Huge Dose of Humor
I’m not a science-fiction fan. I’m not the ideal audience for “The Martian,” and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this film because of its levity. The movie is based on Andy Weir’s novel, which I plan to read.
Watney’s predicament could have been the basis of a dystopian tale, but instead, the film tells his story with small shots of science fiction that even non-fans like me can take and a huge dose of humor throughout. Matt Damon plays Watney to perfection—smart but not nerdy, attractive but not pretty, intense but not in a depressing way.
More than anything, “The Martian” is about persistence and resilience, qualities most of us could use right on this planet.
Films like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” and Chris Nolan’s “Interstellar” have dazzled us with visual effects. “The Martian” is just as stunning and competent in that department.
But unlike those movies, “The Martian” shows how science fiction can be so much fun. It proves that Ridley Scott doesn’t need aliens bursting out of people’s stomachs to make a compelling science-fiction film.