Matt Damon gives a remarkable performance, the story is excellent, the comedy is effective, and the movie is a solid adaptation from the best-selling novel. And even though films like Primer are so attractive to me due to their unwillingness to dumb down the science behind their narrative, The Martian never feels like it’s softballing anything at you.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.
Matt Damon (from left), Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara and Aksel Hennie portray the crewmembers of a fateful mission to Mars.
TURAN: He is the Martian, yes.
He is Mark Watney, a biologist who is part of a mission to Mars. He can’t communicate with Earth. It’s a glass-half-full look at humanity told from three points of view.
Damon carries the bulk of this film on his shoulders and he does a fantastic job, perfectly portraying the forsaken astronaut, Watney, as heroic and smart, but still vulnerable and desperately alone. He’s got enough rations to last 400 days (or “sols”, in NASA terminology). Luckily, I’m a botanist. It is an intensely compelling, feel good, character-driven piece that is as captivating on Earth as it is on Mars. Watching these incredibly intelligent characters work to figure out a life or death problem is far more exhilarating than it sounds.
Most survival stories present a stranded hero who manages to persevere through a mix of strength, mental fortitude, and luck. He delights in solving them. It worships at the altar of Spielberg (Close Encounters, E.T.) while maintaining an edge of dark reality thanks to Scott, who knows his way around space movies (Alien, Prometheus).
What I really loved about this movie, besides Damon’s incredibly witty performance, was just how scientific it was.
TURAN: This is different. And that makes it a most atypical Ridley Scott project.
With superb acting coupled with even better filmmaking, Ejiofor hopes that audiences will be taken with “The Martian” and other films they have in the works. And it’s wonderful to see it unfold so beautifully.
The Martian is released at a very opportune time in our history, in which privatized space travel has pushed the limits in launch vehicle development, water in a liquid form has been discovered on Mars, and NASA is focused on developing vehicle deceleration technologies to overcome the comparatively thin atmosphere on Mars.
As research the actors met with representatives from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the European Space Agency. It’s like a catalog come to life. NASA is now developing a vehicle for the same goal called the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle or MMSEV. And it’s just all of a sudden, the very week the film opens, this story breaks in media around the world. The film asks many tough questions that are not easy for people to answer and shows great examples of what true loyalty is like.
As they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet!”
MONTAGNE: OK, well, Kenneth Turan is film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.
Now that you’ve seen it, what did you think?