Rating out of 5:
Based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” builds on the success of recent near-future sci-fi blockbusters “Gravity” and “Interstellar”… but with better science, better acting, and a better script.
Entertaining does not even begin to describe what is clearly one of the best films of the year. Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut left for dead on Mars after the rest of his mission evacuates. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others, round out the cast as concerned but useful NASA scientists with Jessica Chastain as Watney’s mission commander, but the movie clearly belongs to Damon, whose knack for comedy in the face of a generally serious plotline carries the day.
Watney manages to terraform enough of Mars to grow potatoes, resuscitate Pathfinder, and pirate an escape craft in the face of overwhelming odds, including dust storms, technological failures, and his commander’s seemingly indestructible library of disco music. The work is bursting with witty dialogue, striking Martian vistas, and sci-fi and science history references galore. Fans of Scott’s previous work will be pleased to know he manages low-level fog, even on the Red Planet.
Disbelief is quickly and willingly suspended in the few cases where it needs to be and does not impede the rollicking pace of this space survival romp. “The Martian” is a triumph of science fiction and scientific endeavor, where the nerds are the undisputed heroes and dire circumstances are no obstacle to humor.
Coming on the heels on several mainstream space exploration features, we can only hope “The Martian” helps to reinvigorate national interest in “Science[ing] the shit out of” the space program.
-Brigid Ehrmantraut ‘18