Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall Flicks: The Martian

It's a busy week full of movies here with three in the can and another three on the horizon this weekend. Last night it was an impromptu screening of new Ridley Scott flick The Martian starring Matt Damon. Based on a self published novel (on a blog, no less) turned Amazon best seller by Andy Weir and adapted by Drew Goddard, The Martian has been building buzz for quite some time after the well received trailers. Matt Damon averted P.R. nightmares after a few quotes about diversity and openly homosexual actors were taken the wrong way. But in today's climate, what isn't taken the wrong way? It reminds me of Van Damme saying you could sue him for using the F word and be "mentally abused"...Man I'm not cut out for this world...Anywho, the flick opened to a boffo $55 million last week giving Damon a nice career boost and delivering Ridley Scott's first bonafide hit in years. All in The Martian is a good time at the movies, it's light, funny, slightly terrifying and incredibly well made even if it all unfolds in a pretty straight forward and ho-hum fashion.

Up on Mars, the crew of mission Ares III are hit by a severe storm where astronaut botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is struck by debris, separated from the party, presumed dead and the remaining members evacuate the planet. Of course he's not and must now figure out a way to survive on the uninhabitable planet and signal NASA. On Earth, directors, media, engineers and others carefully plan how they're going to explain Watney not dying and how they can rescue him without jeopardizing more astronauts along with their public standing. Eventually the Ares III crew is informed that Watney is alive and must decide if they'd be willing to risk their lives and careers to go back for him. Like I said, The Martian is a good time. It highlights science, problem solving, team work and humanity in a light tone. Kind of like how the last Twilight movie was an X-Men flick for non-comic book readers, The Martian is an intelligent science movie for people who conjure up images of hippies and nerds with pocket protectors when they think of free thought or space exploration. It's a very human story that that doesn't get too cerebral or technical while packing lots of laughs and a few breathe stopping sequences of Mars and space set destruction.

The cast is huge, starting with Damon and includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejifor and Donald Glover. It's been highlighted that Mackenzie Davis' small role of a NASA satellite analyst was originally written as an Asian woman in the book. As if the film didn't have enough white folks running around including two central redheaded female characters. I wonder if this came from Scott, the casting department or Fox as it's a pretty nothing role so why even take the time to change the ethnicity from the book? But this is Fox who you know, white washed the entire county of Orange for TV and kicked Jubilee to the curb in favor of a lame ass Rogue in X-Men. Oh well, Scott did make Black Rain which cast lots of great Asian actors while decapitating Andy Garcia. Not like he pulls a Seth McFarlane and continually uses Asian characters as the butt of jokes and stereotypes.

Inevitable comparisons to last year's space epic Interstellar have been rightfully avoided as they're two different types of films. Although Damon and Chastain are in both, The Martian is a breezy good time with a classic rock soundtrack while Interstellar was an emotional experience that dealt with big ideas like the end of the world and alternate dimensions. I appreciated Chris Nolan's ambition and use of emotion which will make it stand out in my memory more so than The Martian. I'd see it again though. 3D is ok, some storm sequences make good use of it but never felt like I was there.

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