Musings of a Moving Image Enthusiast
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Let me start by saying that I am yet to read Andy Weir’s bestseller this film is based on. It was a conscious decision. When it was announced that Ridley Scott will be directing the screenplay penned by Drew Goddard to bring the book to the big screen, I made it a point to stay away from the book to see how good the movie can be. But since I come from a tribe of bibliophiles, I had heard enough for my expectations to be sky high. Was I disappointed? Not one bit.
The Martian is the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut who is presumed dead during a storm while he and his team are on a Mars exploration mission. But Watney survives, and finds himself alone on a desolate and severely hostile planet. Rather than giving up hope and awaiting his unavoidable demise, Watney uses his wit and ingenuity to survive until the next spacecraft that can rescue him arrives. In his mission to “science the shit” out of the planet, Watney creates a functioning farm in his habitat that will generate food until it’s time for him to leave. Meanwhile on Earth, a team of NASA officials are looking for ways to communicate with Watney, send him supplies and an eventual rescue mission, which most people are sure is doomed even before it has begun.
What keeps the viewer engaged is that despite the extravagant amount of science in the movie, the logics are easy to understand. The calculations are explained in everyman terms. It’s one of those rare sci-fi films that breaks down a difficult concept while keeping it as simple as possible, though some may still find them too geeky. So most of the times, as a viewer, you understand the perils Watney and the NASA officials are facing during a particular moment and how they are planning to overcome the obstacle.
The best thing for me in this film is that it marks Ridley Scott’s return to form. After a sour patch which consisted of films like Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counsellor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Scott is back in master mode and proving that he is one of the finest when it comes down to visually representing the written word. This movie will also make you realize why Matt Damon is one of the best actors we have around. Through his video logs, he keeps the viewer hooked to this mostly one-man show. The video log also serves as a great narration tool instead of the usual background narration we are used to.
Much like all great space movies, The Martian gets us to cheer for the bright, curious minds at space agencies around the world. NASA has itself been making attempts to promote this film and you realize why. It brings to the forefront the greatest minds who solve some of the most unsolvable problems without the incentive of recognition. Overall the movie is about hope and the triumph of the human spirit and the movie makes that abundantly clear. When there’s a life threatening situation, you aren’t worried whether Watney will survive it or not, you are interested in how he will find a way around it.