Released 2015. Director: Ridley Scott
SWEPT AWAY IN A FIERCE SAND STORM ON THE MARTIAN SURFACE, astronaut Mark Watney loses contact with the rest of his crew and is presumed dead. The crew aborts mission and evacuates, heading back to Earth. Meanwhile, the man left behind is still alive.
The Martian is a rollicking survival and rescue drama, a big-budget production with a wide appeal, not just for sci-fi fans. Adapted by Drew Goddard from Andrew Weir’s novel, The Martian is science fiction with a rigorous emphasis on science facts over science speculation. It’s a manual for a worst-case scenario, an instruction book on what you need to do to not die.
As Watney utters perhaps the most memorable line in the movie “I’m going to science the shit out of this planet,” the unadulterated delight in watching The Martian is to see how Watney uses his knowledge as a scientist to keep himself alive until rescue arrives, which turns out to be nearly two years later. This includes burning hydrazine rocket fuel to make drinking water; growing potatoes using his own recycled waste, devising a way to communicate with NASA and keeping himself sane, among other undertakings when one is stuck on a hostile planet alone.
By doing a Robinson Crusoe on Mars, director Ridley Scott has given us a sci-fi movie of practicality, for lack of a better word, and not a speculative, theoretical, philosophically rabbit hole. The Martian is a story that is more concerned about staying alive rather than the meaning of staying alive. Like an episode of CSI, the movie is a series of forensic analysis of problem solving. That Scott makes it accessible, believable and hugely entertaining is a triumph.
All things considered, this must be Ridley Scott’s most positive movie with a genuine happy ending. The master director who gave us era-defining sci-fi classics such as Alien and Blade Runner shows an uncharacteristic sense of lightness. It seems that Scott has permitted himself to loosen up and allowed his characters comic moments, even singing along to cheesy disco music.
Matt Damon cuts another credible role as the stranded but never desperate and extremely resourceful survivor. If there’s one person you would pick to accompany you on a desert island, he’s your guy. Placed in such an impossible, not to mention unprecedented situation, Watney even manages to find humour to deflect his perilous predicament. Making his video diaries is a way for Watney to speak to the audiences as well as explaining the complicated stuff he does in plain English. Damon capably delivers Watney as everybody’s favourite astronaut instantaneously.
The Martian is an uplifting movie experience that leaves you with hope and optimism. The incredible survival and safe return of a stranded human on another planet is presented with science, logic and will power. Watney’s knowledge and resourcefulness keeps him alive, but he couldn’t have come home without the tireless effort of some of the world’s brightest men and women working overtime.
There are a thousand reasons why this man shouldn’t have survived. This movie is a celebration of human intelligence and, like visions of the Moon landing, space shuttles launching, unmanned landings on Mars and Voyager’s journey beyond the Solar System, an inspiration to a new generation that if we band together, we can save ourselves with human ingenuity.
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