Imagine spending months traveling to a location so remote, humans have never traveled. Then imagine a natural disaster so big having to cut your visit short. Only your stay gets extended by being left for dead by your crew. It’s now up to you to get clever to survive on a planet that doesn’t even have breathable air. Like Robinson Crusoe (or Mark Watney) you’re going to have to get smart or die in any various fashion available outside the nurturing embrace of planet Earth. The Martian is the story of an American astronaut stuck millions of miles from home. And his only friend is science.

‘The Martian’ Movie Review

Filled with humor, desolation, and a little bit of intrigue, The Martian takes us to the red planet. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is studying Mars with his crew when a storm blows in so massive that they are forced to abort the mission altogether. They don’t have the fuel and supplies to return to the surface, and Mark is left under the assumption he perished in the escape attempt. Now he is left with a temporary habitat structure, a Mars car, and what would amount to an ancient rover by future standards.

The director Teddy Sanders of NASA learns that Mark is alive and withholds the information from the rest of the Aries crew. He believes they lack the resources to help their fellow astronaut, so instead he spends months looking for alternative options, cutting corners all along the way and getting nowhere.

“I’m going to have to science the s**t out of this,” is the essence of Mark’s humor, which as much as his knowledge of botany, chemistry, and computer systems, is absolutely his best attribute. The Martian is as funny as it is dire.

Mark experiences Mars fed on potatoes grown in poop, and ABBA playing in the background. He talks to himself through the digital logbook in “the hab” and instant messages with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab through a derelict rover he recovered from a sand dune.

When, after months, the crew of the Aries are informed that they left Mark back on Mars, they are shocked and stricken with guilt. Even more months go by with recovery efforts going nowhere. Jeff Daniels plays Teddy Sanders who, while manipulative and negligent, is his own worst enemy. He has the staff to make it happen and the Aries crew more than willing to go back for their friend, but Sanders can’t see past the human risk and the possible media mauling that would ensue. Every person at NASA is scrambling to help Mark, especially Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) and Rich Purnell (Donald Glover). Together, they draft a clandestine plan that will send the Aries on an extended mission and the most daring rescue attempt in the history of space exploration.

But to execute the plan means committing mutiny.

The Martian takes the dry nature of science with the miserable reality of space travel, and puts it into a form that is both palatable and humorous to the average viewer. Jessica Chastain gets to be the one going into space this time as opposed to her part in Interstellar, and plays a convincing and level-headed space commander in charge of a talented and intrepid crew. Ridley Scott, a stranger to sci-fi, directs with his signature flare for drama. The Martian belongs among the great films that bring the objects in our universe a little closer while expressing how vast and remote our neighbors truly are. Most importantly, films of this kind address the human cost of exploring worlds beyond our own.

Pictured: Matt Damon as Mark Watney.

 

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