Sunday, October 04, 2015

"The Martian": Matt Damon gives us a guided tour of the Red Planet, and overcomes all obstacles in screenwriting-101 fashion

Going to see Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” (written by Drew Goddard from the book by Andy Weir), in 3-D on a large format screen is almost certainly the best chance any one of us has to experience “visiting” Mars, even vicariously. So here we have another big exotic travel experience movie.

There’s a scene 40 minutes before the end (141 minutes) where Mark Watney drives his “Avis” rover (stopping every few hours for tedious recharging of the array of solar batteries) through stunning canyons, for miles under a pink sky.  That’s what most of Mars looks like, even much of this sequence was filmed in Jordan (Wadi Run).

And the final sequences, where Mark is brought back on to the main crew’s returning ship, even outdoes comparable sequences in “Gravity” (Oct. 4, 2013) with the space lasso sequence.
And there are some stunning shots of the entire Mars surfce from space vehicles.

And we get to see a little of Beijing (smog-filled) when China joins the effort to save Mark.
The film’s obvious rooting interest follows the most common screenwriting clichés, but here they work, keeping you glued to the final rescue. This film works better than, say, “Castaway” (2000), because the loneliness is punctuated all the time.

The international and internal NASA politics gets a little silly and obvious at times.  But the crew really had good reason to believe Mark dead, and really have to sacrifice nineteen more months to go back to get him after other failures.

I loved the little potato garden, although it seemed to provide a diet a bit to starchy (maybe vegan). Yes, he has colonized the planet, and, yes, he has walked valleys on the planet alone where no one had ever been (although we don’t know for sure about that).  Really, is any one human good enough to figure all this out and survive it?
Damon looks unbelievably robust in the beginning after the stranding and self-surgery (even having lived at Mars gravity), but loses weight, grows his beard and gets grizzled as the ordeal continues.

The official site is here  (20th Century Fox).

I saw this film before a very full audience at AMC Tyson’s ETX.

No question, the obvious other comparison for this film is Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" (1995). 

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA Viking 1 picture of Mars surface showing atmosphere (p.d.) 

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