What to Watch: The Martian
I'm a huge fan of Matt Damon but for some reason I didn't find The Martian appealing. I think it's the whole space thing. And being lost in space. That just seems so crazy to me! And so stressful. And something about the combo of crazy and stressful was kind of like, yuck.
BUT. Then I started hearing the accolades. I watched the trailer. Saw that the director was Ridley Scott who sounded familiar in a good way. Then, my friends rented it and said it was so great. I watched the trailer again and added it to my "to watch" list on Amazon. I went to see Brooklyn. I saw Ex Machina. I saw Sicario . But still, I didn't rent The Martian for some reason. Then... I was texting with a friend and she mentioned she was watching it last night and I got jealous and promptly rented The Martian from Amazon for $6.
During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
I loved The Martian. I might actually be rooting for it over Spotlight or The Big Short, but I'm still deciding. The plot is a little crazy, yes, but in a way that seems realistic and perfectly suited to the big screen. Yes, there could be a storm on Mars. Yes, it makes sense that the crew would think he was dead. Not so sure about the aftermath, but... I fell for it and I wanted to fall for it. I'm trying to think of a similar movie, but can't really come up with one. Maybe Apollo 13? But it's different in that it was more nationalistic pride and historical instead of sci-fi (which this is, technically, but isn't really). Instead, The Martian is about overcoming odds, coming together to solve a problem, being brave in the face of danger, and caring about other people--a lesson sorely needed in the world at the moment. It also showed the beauty of Mars, which must have been fabricated, but also was so beautiful.
The acting was wonderful. Matt Damon is classic in this--Mark Watney is funny, likeable, relatable. When he gets frustrated or excited you just root for him.
The rest of the space crew of Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie who leave him behind are wonderful. Particularly Chastain, Peña, and Mara. They were just so human. Chastain as the captain has so much guilt, Peña has such a great sense of humor, Mara made way for the teensiest romance. It was wonderful to see their bravery. Also--how crazy must it have been to act in zero gravity?! The crew at home of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, and Kirstin Wiig were fun to watch as they battled for Mark and for the other astronauts, and for their reputations--Jeff Daniels plays the bad guy and I didn't love his acting in this, but the other two were great. Ejiofor exuded optimism, pragmatism, hope, and really felt like someone I'd look up to and believe in.
The rest of the cast that had a smaller part gave perspective about how much goes into space travel and how astounding NASA really is. And I'm sure this just glossed over most of what they do. The rest of the crew on the ground who were working so hard to get Mark home and keep him safe under crazy circumstances were also excellent, despite the fact that they had little screen time. They all seemed like real people--Benedict Wong was so convincing as the guy who builds everything (that's a technical term, btw), Mackenzie Davis as the dorky girl who figures out Watney is alive was fun and memorable, Donald Glover as the astrodynamics guy who figures out a solution was endearing and smart and lovable. I also loved Shu Chen as the Chinese woman who offers to give up national secrets to help save an American astronaut. The smile her face breaks into when her boss gives the ok was just heart warming.
I laughed, I cried, I really really enjoyed The Martian. Highly recommended.