Synopsis: After a manned mission to Mars goes awry, an astronaut, presumed dead, is left behind. He must find a way to survive until a possible rescue attempt.
Outer space is completely hostile to human life: no food, no water, killing temperatures. Oh, yeah, and no breathable oxygen. Naturally humans want to go there. Hollywood likes to pretend go to space too. We movie goers know better than astronauts what to expect: first things will seem wondrous but then alien life forms and/or space itself will set about killing them.
The Martian begins with a group of astronauts, including Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, doing important work on the surface of Mars like sifting through dirt and riding around in a Mars buggy. But a fierce wind storm whips up to remind them that they never should have been out in that hellscape. They scurry back to their vessel. All except Matt because he has been blown away like a rubber duckie in a hurricane. The sound of sand lashing around outside is so scary that after about ten minutes Captain Jessica Chastain declares Matt a lost cause and they blast off the planet.
But we know that since Matt Damon is a big movie star, he will have survived. Soon enough, Matt sets himself up in a big plastic yurt and becomes a potato farmer. He keeps a vlog to ward off space madness and to apprise the movie goers of his techie survival solutions. I thought that it would be more entertaining if he got space madness. He would run around looking for Ben Affleck or kick boxing imaginary assassins a la Jason Bourne.
The movie shifts earthward, to NASA where someone discovers: Hey, the computer says someone is joyriding in the Mars buggy. Did we forget anybody up there? For some reason, the head of NASA, Jeff Daniels seems to want Matt to die. Every time that anyone has a constructive idea, he angrily insists that NO ONE — not even Matt Damon– can survive on Mars. But lead scientist guy, Chiwetel Ejiofor valiantly leads the other NASA employees with earnest head nods at “It just might work” plans. He also stays up late into the night emailing with Matt. Their exchanges really spark; stuff from Chiwetel like: Are you alive? Matt: Yes. At some point Jeff Daniels decides that he cares if Matt lives and starts barking out orders through Skype: Three weeks to get the rocket ready?! Make it three hours!”
The movie has less tension than the filmmakers would like because we know that Matt is brilliant and it’s doubtful that the movie would end with Jeff Daniels intoning: He’s dead. Ultimately, it’s a well-done action adventure with a likable lead. But, Golden Globes, it’s not a comedy. Or musical.
PS After watching the movie, you may be thinking that you didn’t see any martians. Maybe they were camouflaged in the Mars-scape? Get ready to have your mind blown…Matt Damon was The Martian :0
Cut to the Chase: Well-done, but a little slooww
Comedy Highlight: Jeff Daniels’ NASA chief squashing every staffers’ attempt at optimism