It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t written a review since the atrocity that was “The Fantastic Four” and, in looking at my movie ticket collection, I hadn’t actually seen one since that either. This isn’t normal for me. Sure, I usually have the post-summer movie slow down, but two months is unheard of for me. Really, there weren’t movies that worked well for me; then “The Martian” came out, and I was excited about movies again. Now, the subject matter excited me; Ridley Scott hasn’t directed a really good movie since “Body of Lies” in 2008, and Matt Damon has been talking out of his ass lately when it comes to diversity in Hollywood, but this was about science and Mars!
I have always been a space nerd; from my first time watching “Star Wars” and “E.T.” the idea of space and space travel fascinated me. I’ve visited Kennedy Space Center twice; while I’ve never been present for a launch, I’ve watch a whole lot of them on my computer since that became a possibility. I can’t get enough space stuff in my life, and Mars in particular since Curiosity landed August 6, 2012. I watched the NASA Livestream. I could really go on and on about my love of science and the Space Program, but I have a review to write so let’s get to it.
“The Martian,” based on the novel by Andy Weir, runs for more than two hours which is rare for Hollywood movies. But this movie manages to pull it off well with excellent pacing of dialogue, exposition, action, a touch of humor, and an incredible musical score. That coupled with Scott’s ability to make amazing wide landscape shots, and you have everything you need to hold an audience’s attention for 141 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend getting a large drink at the start of the film, though.
The story starts with a bang. If you have seen a trailer, you know that a storm separates Mark Watney (Damon) from the rest of his crew, and he is left behind on the desolate planet of Mars and he is thought dead. What takes place after this is a beautifully written one-man show that at times includes the rest of the cast in minor but important supporting roles. They may not get a lot of screen time, but every actor in this movie, like every member of a manned space mission, is vitally important to the story. Kudos to Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay, for doing such a great job at showing that to the audience. Along with everyone being important to the mission and to the story, there wasn’t a single moment where I felt something was dragging or cliche. It never fell into a storytelling trope. This was perhaps the best story I’ve seen all year. 10/10
The acting was nothing short of brilliant, too. Looking at this cast, how could it not? The cast is diverse: Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Michael Bean, oh, and Matt Damon, who could be in Oscar contention with his performance. Everyone brought their A game to this movie and delivered what should be award-winning performances. Hollywood at its finest. 10/10.
Normally where a science fiction movie is going to lose marks is in its diversity, but not “The Martian.” Chiwetel Ejiofor is the head of Manned Mars missions and answers only to the top brass of NASA. Jessica Chastain is the mission commander in charge of everything about the Aries III mission; no one ever questioned her orders or competence. Kate Mara is the mission computer specialist. Donald Glover was the smartest man at NASA. While his role was minor, when he talked no one undermined him, and he found the solution to one of the biggest problems in the movie. Mackenzie Davis figured out Watney was alive and then became responsible for tracking his movements on Mars. Benedict Wong was the head of NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. So we have an ethnically and gender diverse cast with people of color and varied ethnicities in positions of power, never undermined for skin or reproductive parts, all absolutely essential to the story. Oh, and it passed the Bechdel-Wallace test. 10/10
Of course, the movie’s overall awesomeness doesn’t let you down either; from the first moment, it grabs you right up until the ending. A perfect blend of real science, science fiction, action, humor, and humanity, “The Martian” will make you want to stand up and cheer at the end. It gives you hope that humanity can do things right, come together in crisis, and actually care about each other again. 10/10.
I never give movies a perfect score—never. I even looked at old reviews I had written and published elsewhere. I have never given a 10/10 score to a film. “The Martian” earned it, though, and I can’t recommend it highly enough to all of you, especially those of you with children. The movie may be rated PG-13, but other than some swear words and a scene where you see Matt Damon’s emaciated body (from behind), this is a movie that you should take your children to see. It will spark their imaginations and their curiosity, and may help get the world interested in things like science and space again. It shows us and especially children what can be accomplished if we think instead of reacting and work together rather than letting differences keep us separated from the rest of the world. “The Martian” gets a perfect score: 10/10. Must see and any other cliche adjective you can think of to entice you to go out and watch a movie.
(Image source: promotional material for “The Martian” distributed by Scott Free Productions)