...when the screen takes over...

The Martian (2015)

There is something about the outer space and all that it contains. Whether the huge empty space that imposes, the striking contrast to life on Earth, the range of mysteries and secrets that it keeps, or simply its inexhaustible possibilities, it is ever intriguing. And that I would want to see on the biggest screen possible. Now, enter human, telling his story, staging his drama and his triumph.

We’ve tired the moon, so now let’s exploit Mars…

The Martian

The Martian (IMDB)

A storm hits a group of astronauts, who are part of mission Ares III , on Mars. As they try to return to the ship and abandon the planet, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets knocked down. Presumed dead in the storm, Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) decides to leave him behind. The NASA officials announces his death to the media, and gives him a grand empty casket funeral. Watney finds himself alone in Mars.

Considering the next mission to Mars, Arres IV, is scheduled to arrive in four years thus giving him the hope of ever going home, Mark is here for the long haul. Now alone, he needs to survive. His food supply will not allow him to see his plan so he needs to produce food. He also needs to find a way to communicate with Earth to inform his existence.

Meanwhile on Earth, images of the HQ’s surrounding of base on the surface of Mars shows changes that alerts Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), NASA’s Mars mission director, that Mark Watney may have been alive after all. This brings relief as well as dilemma. If they want to save him, planning and executing a mission to save him would need time that by the time it gets there, Watney would have run out of food supply. If so, then the mission is a priori a failed one so why bother trying. But there is pressure that the discovery of Watney’s existence cannot be kept a secret from the today’s Internet. So the officials must, by perceived public pressure, get Watney back to Earth.

I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the best botanist on the planet. Mark Watney, “The Martian”

“The Martian” mainly provided a convenient excuse for going to a new cinema outlet in town, about which I was curious. Since the venue was new, it was not crowded yet and the cinema hall was great. I might as well put it as my first choice of local cinema.

I have not read the book, “The Martian” by Andy Weir, so I had no idea how the film compared to it. There were traces of the medium that graced the screen, though. You couldn’t escape the, sometimes long and winding, expositions and scientific explanations. Mark Watney’s monologues often sounded like something off a page, the day’s journal entry, or summary of today’s events, instead of in-the-moment bursts of thoughts. It felt like a NatGeo or Discovery Channel documentary sometimes. The video diaries were presented like the familiar and popular vlog: Watney was addressing an audience, not talking to himself. Some of the shots also reminded me of reality-adventure TV-programmes. All in all, the cinematic deliveries and written expositions got off-balance sometimes.

I tried not to be nit-picky for the science-y bits, which most have mostly regarded as okay. But if, before going to see the cinema, you’d read an article about improbability of such life-threatening sandstorm in Mars, which set the whole story in motion, the film demanded pretty high level of suspension of disbelief. Surprisingly, the one thing, with which I had trouble suspending disbelief, turned out to be the human drama.

Of course, I buy the can-do attitude Watney was displaying — I found all the qualities and perks prevalent among farmers, and a botanist might as well be a sub-variety of them: patient, optimistic, hard-working, resourceful, undaunted by weather, etc. Matt Damon portrayed Mark Watney with the positivity I want to see more in real life and on-screen. The toned down psychological and emotional struggles (of Watney, the Ares III mission commander and crews, the Earth team) also worked well with the over all atmosphere. I applaud the spirit: “We are scientists not drama queens. We solve problems. Life goes on.” Therefore, even though this is fiction, the drama of “politics” and “image” preservation of the high offices of NASA feels soapy and unnecessary, trying too hard to up the stakes and complicate things. I just don’t get their perceived conflicts and crises. The dilemma, whether the Hermes crew should be told that Watney’s alive, drags the story into pointless angst and angers, if there is any.

Over all, this is an okay space film. Considering it is a Ridley Scott film, even if everything else fails, there would still be stunning scopes, images and decent acting. For those reasons, I was not disappointed. There is abundance of visual treats, ranging from the harsh landscape of Mars, the quiet and overwhelming vacuum space, and the familiar and lively Earth. Even though the 3D makes some of the scenes look like Thunderbirds miniatures.

The Martian — Home Alone in Space...
  • Idea
  • Directing
  • Acting
  • Cinematography
  • Sound and Music
  • Entertainment

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