The Martian review
Castaway is my favorite “stuck on a desert island” story. It was an almost one-man story about a guy surviving with the skills he has. He’s not a genius, but he uses what he has (coconuts and anything washed up from the crashed Fed-Ex Plane). There’s no villain or McGuffin device that could save him. Castaway knew that it had to play things simply. That, along with most desert island stories, take their inspiration from the Robinson Cruise novel that turned the simple premise into an engaging genre that has been repeated over and over. It’s usually easy to make up the story by simply choosing the location.
You set the story on an island, then anybody has a chance to survive. Put the story in space, then your character, no matter how intelligent they are, will be facing a bigger challenge. Food and drink would be a problem as space has nothing that a human being would be able to live by. Shelter would be another issue as you only have enough oxygen for so long. Speaking of oxygen, even air would be troubling. For a Mars-set The Martian, it’s going to have to take a very resourceful Matt Damon to solve this.
Sometime in the near future, the NASA-bound Ares III crew on Mars has done well with collecting samples that they hope to study on Earth. A sudden storm hits the red planet where the crew, including commander Melissa (played by Jessica Chastain), Rick (played by Michael Peña), Beth (Played by Kate Mara) struggle to get to their escape ship. Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) gets struck by debris and is presumed dead. The crew launch off the planet, mourning their loss before starting their return mission to Earth.
Mark wakes up in a sand pile and manages to make it back to the artificial habitat, unable to make contact with NASA with the communication equipment all destroyed. He calculates that it will take four years for another mission to reach him. Before attempting find a different way to get any message home, he uses his skills as a botanist to try and make enough food and water to last the next long period with only disco music as his source of entertainment.
Back on Earth, head of NASA Teddy (played by Jeff Daniels) already announces Marks death before other engineers Vincent (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mindy (played by Mackenzie Davis) see that they have an astronaut to rescue.
Last year’s so-called scientifically accurate Interstellar seemed to capture a lot of people’s imagination except mine. The Martian accomplishes that scientific accuracy while boasting a better story and more interesting characters. Matt Damon seems like a more human character then Matthew McConaughey’s monologue spewing borefest. Even though he’s a genius, Damon still seems at home enough that we along with him would work as he does, get hungry as he does, and become angry as he does. Damon comes really close to rivaling Tom Hank’s Castaway performance.
Unlike Castaway’s one-man show, The Martian boasts a huge cast that surprisingly never becomes over crowded. Everyone fits their shoes and plays their part in this one guy’s journey to make it home.
I may not be an astronaut, but The Martian also reminded me why I made those annual trips to Space Camp. The movie shows how cool these intelligent people can be with what they can make. I won’t say what he does to survive, but it seems so believable, that I wonder how much of a part the real NASA played in creating it’s plausible situation.
I’ll give this five Mars artificial habitats out of five. The Martian only has one goal in it’s story and that all it needed. This movie is my Interstellar and should hopefully even turn those individuals to see why that Christopher Nolan story was drab while this Ridley Scott movie is awesome. This is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of 2015.