Sometimes being in similar sounding films can lead people to mistakenly assume that an actor is doing the same role over and over again. Matt Damon, for instance, had to make a public statement in order to clarify that this particular movie; “The Martian,” had nothing to do with the similarly looking film he appeared in released a year earlier called “Interstellar”. Unlike the latter, however, “The Martian” maintains its slow-moving pace whilst obliterating your expectations to wonderfully new lengths of entertainment.
Astronaut Marc Watney (Matt Damon) is partaking in a manned mission to Mars with his commander (Jessica Chastain) and crew. During a freak storm, Marc is believed to be killed and his commander and crew leave the planet before their ship is destroyed. Now stranded on an alien planet with dwindling resources, Marc must use all of his brain and will power to make Mars a survivable home for the next few years until his rescue arrives. When the crew learns of his survival through NASA, it becomes a race against time, space and fate as the crew tries to perform an impossible rescue mission; in order to bring themselves and Marc back home alive. Without saying too much, I can definitely tell you that this movie was quite different from what I thought it’d be.
This movie initially looked like an intense, drama driven survival story that would deliver a grim, gripping lone survivor story like “Gravity.” However, unlike both “Gravity” and “Interstellar”; this film was actually VERY emotional and light-hearted. Both previously mentioned space films relied far too much on space physics, jargon and visual effects to cover up barely developed characters who only command so much of our sympathies. “The Martian,” on the other hand, makes you care; you care about Marc, while his documentary narration to the space station cameras allows you to feel like you’re right there with him; struggling, but also laughing and smiling along with each incredible accomplishment. Most of the film is spent watching Marc come up with Sherlock level contraptions and solving equations to make the impossible actually possible on an alien planet.
Each scientific tool and trick Marc uses is meticulously presented and crafted in a way that makes scientific sense and is engaging to watch unfold. The movie is nearly 3 hours long and the majority of air time is all focused on Damon and Damon alone, and he easily proves capable of carrying this film all by himself. He has a sense of charm and charisma that works surprisingly well with a character smart enough to grow crops on Mars and grow his own water just by using what was left around for him to tinker with. But what I loved best about this film was its light-hearted approach to an otherwise hopeless dilemma. This film is uplifting, it’s challenging but it’s not so seriously sour that you can’t feel a sense of optimism and humor through Marc’s journey.
Overall, “The Martian” has a lot more emotional power to its punch than ever could have been expected. I can’t really find a fault or flaw to pick apart because the movie is just a solid, well-acted, well written and well-directed space drama that produced far more smiles than chewed off fingernails. While it’s not a film I can say warrants a great deal of replay value, this pleasant science fiction survival tale conveys a positive message that transcends the survivors grim dilemma, and I can see why so many movie critics have buzzed about it. I give “The Martian” 3 stars out of 4.