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Movie Review: The Martian

By Diana Buchert, Contributor

[Scott Free Productions; 2015]

Rating: 4/5

With the buzz surrounding NASA’s latest discovery of water on Mars, it’s fitting that Ridley Scott’s latest film, The Martian, had landed in theaters around the same time. Even with a stellar lead actor in Matt Damon, this expertly timed release could not sway any initial eye-rolls at yet another “space” movie. However, with the film’s addition of humor amongst stressful scenes and the real-life science that drove Damon’s character’s actions,The Martian assists in ushering in a new kind of out-of-this-world film.

Based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, The Martian finds Mark Watney (Damon) and crew attempting to complete a manned mission on Mars when a severe storm breaks out, prompting their departure. Though his fellow astronauts escape, Watney wakes up to find himself accidentally left alone on the barren planet, surprisingly alive. Watney isn’t one to sit and wallow, however. Utilizing his botanist knowledge, he works to cultivate crops inside the crew’s artificial habitat. What follows afterward are moments of innovation, exploration and incredible suspense as Watney adjusts first to life first on Mars, then to his unknown future.

Watney’s go-getter optimism and humor in a dire situation are refreshing against the usual episodes of peril and panic that are known to most movies of this genre. From his bashing of mission commander Melissa Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) disco music to his daily stream-of-consciousness commentaries, Watney’s positive attitude reaches the audience and encourages them to cheer him on, rather than scoff at his possible “this is it” mindset.

Along with Watney’s creative survival skills is the real-life science behind them, something that makes The Martian that much more credible and honest. Numerous characters, from Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig) and NASA head Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), are seen using terminology and facts that are known through history and within the science community.

There are no surprises here; the scenery of Mars is depicted as bleak, sandy, and, giving the planet its nickname, red. More visual effects when looking at the space scenery could have been added, but for the sake of authenticism, the minimal twists and turns with both the plot and backdrop kept the movie from floating off into some weird plot twist, such as random alien attacks.

Unexpected appearances from comedians Wiig and Donald Glover, who played astrodynamics expert Rich Purnell, were a fun addition to the star-studded cast. Both excelled as real comedians playing smart and serious roles. From the presentation of Purnell’s insane rescue mission to the turbulent encounters during it, sweaty palms were inevitable.

The Martian leaves the audience with the question--is this all possible? The film never presents what year this all takes place in, providing the pondersome thought of how soon manned missions to Mars can be a real thing. Is it foreseeable? Is it distant? Until a conclusion is reached, The Martian is here to entertain the thought, with excellent execution.

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