Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Martian

Lowdown: Bringing an astronaut left for dead on Mars back to earth.
Ridley Scott is a director one can trust to use tons of extremely well crafted production values in order to produce mundane movies (Prometheus, Exodus). However, from time to time he fucks up and produces a genuine gem that shakes the very foundations of cinema (Blade Runner, Alien, Thelma & Louise). Lucky for us, The Martian is a fuck up.
The premises of this science of a science fiction movie are simple. A manned mission to Mars (clearly a fantasy for our generation) is forced to evacuate and rush back home due to a surprise dust storm of surprising intensity. In the chaos of evacuating under enemy fire [dust], one of the crew members is hit and, in the name of rescuing the others, there is no time to ask too many question so he's left behind. Presumed dead.
In this movie he's actually alive, and more or less well. Mark (Matt Damon) thus finds himself alone on Mars, with no prospect of getting back home or even, for that matter, letting home know he's actually alive. Through his resourcefulness, Mark manages to survive from day to day on Mars' hostile environment. Not only that, he pulls out one achievement after the other to give this very first citizen of Mars a chance to come back home.
In effect, The Martian is an Apollo 13 story of a space mission gone wrong that deals with a hero being dealt Cast Away like cards. But more than they did in Apollo 13, Mark (and his space agencies' colleagues, featuring an ensemble cast) resort to solutions that make the most of the science and engineering environment that is a manned mission to Mars. More than any movie I can recall, The Martian truly popularises science to show the plebs how its principles can be applied to entertain us (and save a fictitious figure stuck on another planet). As far as this illiterate person could tell, the only notable deviation from scientific truth comes in the shape of ignoring the effects of Mars' lesser gravity.
The result of the setting and the glorification of science is, as already alluded to, a Ridley Scott at his best. The Martian is, indeed, a good story that is very well told.

I will note the use of old Gold 104 style music from decades gone by: on one hand, it is one of many jokes; on the other, it is probably a good way for the movie to avoid the need to come up with its version of the music of the near future.
Last, but not least, I will note a peculiar precedent. The Martian movie experience was very much "blooped" for me by the iOS game that followed it, in which you play Mission Control as it tries to help Mark return safely home. This is the first time I am aware of a movie getting the blooper treatment by a video game.
Overall: The Martian is, indeed, a movie of planetary magnitude. 4.5 out of 5 crabs.


Uri said...

My favorite movie of 2015.

And a great adaptation to a great book.

Lunar Jim said...

Not as good as the real thing.