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Film Review: The Martian
In 2015, Ridley Scott released The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, Kristen Wiig, and Nick Mohammed, the film grossed $598.5 million at the box office. Winner of the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and nominated for Best Director, the film has also been nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
When astronaut Mark Watney’s crewmates believe him to have been killed during a mission on Mars, they abandon the site and leave him for dead. However, Watney is very much alive and trying to survive until the next mission to Mars. But when mission control finds that he’s alive, they work to save him and bring him home.
Another well done film by Ridley Scott following a period of artistic downturn, The Martian is a great film that really deserves its nomination for Best Picture. Much of it really has to do with who Watney is as a character and how he trudges on through the film. It’s notable how many problems get in his way with him refusing to accept the situation and just let Mars get the better of him. His first scene after realizing that he’s been left on the planet really says all that the audience needs to know about him. He gets up and calmly makes his way back to the mission site only to perform emergency surgery. Only after the antenna is out does he really react to his being left and it’s not by panicking, but simply by swearing once. Further, though he has a few moments of weakness where he does let out what he’s really thinking, he’s shown as not allowing himself to go down without a fight. Rather, he admits that his survival is unlikely, but if he’s going to die, it won’t be his choice. What’s more is that after all is said and done and he’s back on Earth, he doesn’t give NASA his resignation, but decides to train new recruits in survival techniques.
But it’s not just Watney as everyone pulls together to help bring him home once NASA finds out that he’s still alive. Even the Chinese partner with the organization to get him back. It’s interesting and inspiring to see just what it could take for a pair of superpowers who have a fragile partnership in real life work together. Even if it was just NASA and they could get the resupply rocket to make it to Mars, it’s really worth noting that they devote practically every source available into getting him back, showing just how much they value him.
Interestingly, the film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. Though it’s not really a comedy, it does have plenty of humorous moments. One moment includes a hilarious cutaway gag where those at NASA are wondering what he’s thinking and what the effects of being left alone on Mars are doing to his mind, only for him to leave in his video log that he’s definitely going to die if he has to listen to any more disco music. There’s also when he’s told that his messages are being displayed to the entire world and all the audience can see is making a face followed by a collective groan with some laughs by everyone at NASA and the director having to apologize to the president. The credits even get on the humor when, after a film full of 70s disco, the song played over them is “I Will Survive,” which mentions being back from outer space.
While the film is very good, it does give itself some artistic license as far as physics goes, though it’s excusable for the willing suspension of disbelief. Mars has the same gravity as Earth in the film when, in real life, Mars’ gravity is just over a third of Earth’s. Further, the sunsets are orange. They’re that way on Earth because of the atmosphere and the interaction the sun’s light has with it. Mars is so much further away with a percentage of Earth’s atmosphere, which would make it a completely different color. But again, none of this damages the overall film. It’s just interesting.
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