Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” premiered Friday, much to the delight of science fiction nerds and space enthusiasts.
Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, the film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut, botanist and member of the fictional Ares 3 manned mission to Mars. As the crew abandons the planet because of a severe dust storm, Watney is hit by flying debris and presumed dead. The crew leaves without him, not knowing that Watney is very much alive. After regaining consciousness, Watney is faced with figuring out how to survive on Mars for four years until NASA can rescue him.
Though the movie differed from the book in parts, the underlying themes carry throughout. The immense amounts of human perseverance and the innate desire to live remained ingrained in nearly every scene. The actors do a good job of relaying this feeling to the audience. Though Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor deliver praiseworthy performances, Matt Damon was the standout. He brings humility and humor to the only human on the planet. The consistent jokes and lightheartedness in what could’ve been a darker story allows the audience to relate and sympathize with Watney, and to thus become more invested in his journey toward survival. With a tagline like “Help is only 140 million miles away,” you know that it’ll provide you with all of the cosmic, survivalist excitement of “Gravity,” with a little less gut-wrenching terror.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t darker moments in the movie. Some moments had my heart racing with anticipation, while others had me tearing up, both for heartrending and heartwarming reasons. Part of the interest of “The Martian” is just watching in amazement at how Damon’s character manages the unthinkable, and truly makes something out of nothing. While you sit there in the theater, you can look on as he grows plants on Mars — using his own feces as a fertilizer — in addition to providing water for himself and powering through his solitude.
While the dialogue worked well toward the movement of the plot, the movie could have been a bit shorter. And while on the topic of time, the seven-month time jump in the latter half of the film was a bit jarring, breaking up the otherwise-steady pacing. Talented actors such as Donald Glover and Kristen Wiig were underused, and seemed wasted in the paltry roles that they took on.
Though not necessarily simple, the plot wasn’t nearly as trippy and complex as recent space science fiction movies like “Interstellar.” The science was even accurate — Neil deGrasse Tyson approved — and the visuals, as well as the soundtrack, were stunning.
This is a movie to sit down, watch and let inspire you. You may be watching “The Martian,” but you’ll leave the theater feeling a little more human.