Discoing along his pathway to the future, The Martian is putting his best boot forward while ‘staying alive’ after he finds himself stranded alone, when part of a manned mission to the infamous red planet goes horribly wrong.
Based on the best selling work of fiction by Andy Weir, The Martian tells a story about the power of education, science and technology.
It is a celebration of human ingenuity.
Starring Matt Damon this, one of the most anticipated movies of the year has finally arrived, indeed timed perfectly for America’s space agency NASA to announce that the planet Mars has at last revealed evidence of water after all.
Space opera at its best, Matt Damon delivers an acting tour de force. He is quite literally, awesome, a master of his craft.
Damon has that rare quality in abundance as an actor, the one that enables him to draw his audience into what is happening to him on screen so that they can travel on what is a very realistic journey right along with him.
The Martian is an enthralling, exhilarating and thrilling space ride.
Millions of miles from home, botanist Mark Watney has to call on his sarcastic sense of humour and extensive knowledge of the sciences to survive when his crew take off in a storm and leave him behind. He is appropriately irreverent, put into a situation where we cannot even begin to imagine how we would cope in similar circumstances.
The story commences in 2030 when NASA astronauts are travelling to Mars regularly, living on the surface to see if humans can establish colonies. The members of his crew portrayed by Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie and Michael Peña all believe him dead, the victim of a storm that hit their camp as they are researching on the surface.
Watney disappeared silently in the dark and swirling dust as he brought up the rear of the small crew making their way slowly as horrific weather conditions closed in suddenly.
They were striving hard to reach their module so they could blast off and return to their mother ship Hermes, which has been left orbiting silently in the vastness of space above.
When Watney half buried in the red surface regains consciousness despite an injury, his wisecracking voice rings out loudly.
Soon he discovers that he is the only one who can hear it. He’s been left alone and worse than that, no one knows he’s alive.
Matt Damon gives an extraordinary performance of a man able to stay focused, while giving himself some comic relief in a series of magical moments on his video diary, that prove his delight in his own humanity.
Indeed to ‘science the ‘s*#!t out of it, is the only way Mark Watney can see to survive.
The Martian is indeed a movie in the tradition of The Right Stuff, a prophecy of how the future could begin.
A truly thought provoking story, it is both epic and intimate and will be sure to make space fashionably ‘cool’ once more.
Working one on one with Damon, Director Ridley Scott keeps us engaged on a learning experience, while his hero fixes things on the fly, reminding me of McGyver, an 80’s TV hero my three sons as teenagers admired for his scientific resourcefulness.
Damon has gathered many fans around him since his days as the youthful Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr Ripley when he dazzled us with performances that helped raise the bar of excellence for intelligent movies.
Then came his Bourne Trilogy, giving us a gritty more believable everyday hero, than say the entertaining suave Mr Bond.
The Martian provides him with yet another test, having to dig down deep into his heart, mind, soul and spirit to garner the courage to rise to and surmount unbelievable odds.
His character Mark Watney has to face head on a scary immediate future and with the courage of his convictions.
We can anticipate him in some respects, get right into his emotions and know just what it is he’s feeling. When he was swearing I must admit I wanted to swear right along with him.
Director Ridley Scott has crafted a superb movie. The Martian looks and feels as if we are indeed covered in red dirt; Australians who have travelled in the outback will understand that aspect well.
All the players in this are good. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor back on earth are all working hard for the greater good and all their characterizations are totally believable.
They and the rest of the ensemble around them are an impressive support cast for Matt Damon, who is the solo smart ‘ironman’ trying to get home accompanied by his commander’s taste in music, which he plays to help him bear his solitude, and is certainly questionable.
People on earth have speculated about Mars, one of the five planets that can be seen in the sky without a telescope for centuries.
Galileo Galilei was the first to observe Mars by telescope in 1610 and since the 18th and 19th century, when science became a factoring and growing study of the age of ‘enlightenment’, it has captured our imagination.
First discovered by ancient societies including the Egyptians, the Greeks, Chinese, Babylonians and Indians, its modern name was in honour of the Roman God of War, because its colour in the sky reminded people on earth of blood.
Here it is in reality now, wonderful vistas punctuated by mountains and a rugged terrain depicted in the warm and variegated hues of reddish orange. The look of this movie is fantastic, the visuals superbly rendered. The constant contrast between the great aerial shots of the empty planet and the portrait close ups of Watney’s face make a powerful statement about the extraordinary endeavours of humankind and their will to survive against all odds.
Just as the final return to the silver screen of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie with their sidekicks R2D2 and CP30 is due to grace our cinemas for the Christmas Season 2015, The Martian should have a great run. The video will be sure to make a mozza, because having seen it there are many that will want to relive its many finer moments at home. I know I am one.
Putting a Man on the Moon became a reality on July 20 1969 when my first son aged ten months sat on my lap as we watched Neil Armstrong become the first man on earth to step onto the lunar surface.
Mark Watney pays him homage in this, when he becomes the first botanist to grow food on Mars by commenting wryly: in your face Neil Armstrong.
Everyone involved with NASA’s unmanned robotic programs, which is housed at Pasadena, California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its human-mission teams at the Mission Control Center in Houston, all unite to bring Mark Watney home again once they find out he’s alive. But will they succeed?
Scenes shot around the world of crowds gathering on the street together to wait for the outcome are very real. The Martian certainly tugs at the heart strings, especially for those who lived through NASA’s glory days as I did with my three sons, who I hope will go and see this on the big screen.
The scenes of NASA are so indicative of the days of the moon landing and how the mission crew back on earth all worked together to bring the stranded Apollo 13 astronauts home, working with only the detritus available from the mission.
Watney does the same, his own and his crew’s carefully stored waste becomes the ideal fertiliser to help him make potatoes grow so that he has a food resource until help arrives.
I love that he grows a spud, proving once and for all that potatoes are nutritious and delicious making a point they store well if kept in the dark.
Should make that old favourite vegetable even more fashionable than it is. In the USA as part of the promotion, you can mail a bud a spud!
I don’t want to reveal the specific details of the way all of Mark Watney’s predicaments are resolved as he attempts to surmount one challenge, only to be faced by another.
However I will say the ending was not what I expected at all.
What I can do is urge you to take your family and friends if you want to give yourself a real treat and give the kids in your life a tantalizing vision of hope for the future.
It is about effort, imagination, ingenuity and teamwork, as well as having an adventurous spirit.
There is no doubt the scientific community, especially NASA the space agency will enjoy a whole new focus, with students enrolling in droves at universities and to study to become astronauts.
They are supporting the movie Online with Nine Real NASA Technologies in The Martian.
It was also not surprising to see universities in Australia advertising at Palace Cinemas.
World famous physicist Professor Brian Cox commented on his facebook page “The Martian is the best advert for a career in engineering I’ve ever seen.”
While science may not have all the answers, The Martian does highlight that science and technology is the way forward to the future of our planet and it is good that so many people will receive the message that space is once again ‘cool’.
For me – 5/5
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Watch The Martian Official Trailer
Director Ridley Scott
Screenplay Drew Goddard
Book Andy Weir
Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor