While he and Damon are both in fine form here, it’s ultimately Weir’s genius that their work preserves. I prefer aliens with my sci-fi thank you, and although The Martian obviously fits in the genre, it takes its cues mostly from the school of drama (and sometimes, from its uglier, lazier sister school: melodrama).
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.
And Damon’s co-star is also brilliant: Mars, and the Martian landscape.
TURAN: He is the Martian, yes. He is alive, millions of miles away from Earth, on a deserted planet. He even manages to re-establish contact with Earth using the primitive technology of a 1996 Mars probe. But he has to stay alive for years until the next manned expedition gets there.
The team, along with their Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), is forced to evacuate their landing site in Acidalia Planitia, after being convinced that their injured colleague Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a botanist and mechanical engineer, has been killed in the sandstorm. For redundancy, they sent 68 souls worth of food. Can we consolidate just a bit here? But, as he deadpans, “Mars will come to fear my botany powers”.
“Statistically, this is more risky (than flying) but I didn’t like to fly”, a ponytail-sporting, buff-bodied Damon told M back in May at the Four Seasons Hotel. But get past the hype and its nearest relative isn’t 2013’s George Clooney/Sandra Bullock two-hander but an obscure cheapo called Robinson Crusoe on Mars. There’s no melodrama here-only a hard situation and a problem to solve. Matt Damon as Watney proves that Jason Bourne will survive and thrive in the Red Planet making full use of available resources.
Science, of course. Science and a sense of humor.
“I didn’t think of that at all“.
The aspect of this movie that caught me most by surprise is how genuinely amusing it was; it could honestly pass off as a comedy.
TURAN: This is different. This movie stands out from the crowd in so many ways and is an enjoyable ride the whole way through. That’s not to disparage Weir; the setup is so good, the science so sound that even merely competent writing is able to turn it into an obvious blockbuster flick. But this is the first time he’s done this kind of a film that has this kind of a positive outlook to it. And, you know, he’s a top director. But it’s not a ideal film by any means. This is really the best version of this possible story. And it’s wonderful to see it unfold so beautifully.
“We really had a set to work with – it wasn’t just green screen – we really wore those astronaut uniforms and the ship was very detailed and intricate, and built from scratch”, Stan said. This film plays in part like an advertorial for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s very pro-space exploration.
Like its survival story brethren (especially Man in the Wilderness, Castaway and Gravity), The Martian celebrates the human spirit and our clever capability to endure, despite the odds against us. So it’s great for the film.
TURAN: Good to see you, Renee.