The annual big budget space movie. So this is about a team of astronauts that go to Mars on a research trip. After an accident in a giant storm, a botanist by the name of Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets left behind for dead. The rest of his team is already going back to Earth, but it turns out that he is actually still alive, and has to figure out what exactly he is going to do as he is the only man living on Mars. I thought this looked pretty good, but it wasn’t something I was actively excited about. But then the reviews started to roll in, and this has gained so much traction that there are even rumbling of this getting a Best Picture nomination. While I’m not necessarily drinking the Kool-Aid to that extent, I will say they’ve made a film that is very worthy of your time.
Damon is a good fit for the role, and brings his A-game as usual.
As of yesterday, this just got a Best Picture nomination for Best Musical or Comedy… I don’t know if there was a song or tap dance that I missed, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. There are good moments of comedic relief to break up tension, but that is about it. That is one of the good points about it is, though; while almost anybody else put in this man’s shoes would give up (and you wouldn’t blame them, either), Watney has moxie, and the way he stays lighthearted given the gravity of his situation is an element that allows you to form a tangible connection with him. He’s also extremely resourceful, and he is able to make excellent use of the limited amount of items that he has at his disposal. Another thing this film does well is the science of it all; it’s not like this is incredibly tight or anything, but they never breach the realm of being unbelievable. It’s the Jurassic Park effect; by keeping the science simple and not trying to gloss over everything with some technical mumbo jumbo, it manages to dumb it down without being getting stupid, which allows you to buy into it more.
To expand upon a previous sentiment, I liked this a lot, but it’s going to be low on my best of the year list if it makes it at all (and I usually do somewhere around a top 25 – 30). It’s well paced, and it’s a really good story. There’s not a thing about this that you don’t buy, and Matt Damon does great at selling this because he’s a quality leading man. That said, this was sold to me as a potential “movie of the year” and I never thought of this as that at any point during the runtime. I don’t think this is groundbreaking, and in fact, I think this is very straightforward, and it plays out how you think it will almost to a fault. Still predictability isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, and this has way more good in it than bad. One thing I am more than okay with is having one of these giant blockbuster space movies every year, and between the success of this, Interstellar and Gravity, I am looking forward to seeing more of these movies for years to come.
The Martian (2015) ****
– Critic for Hire