Monday, October 5, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott

The six astronauts of the ARES III mission are collecting samples and data on the Martian surface. A large dust storm hits, forcing them to evacuate the planet. One of the astronauts, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), is struck by flying debris and lost in the storm, presumed dead by the rest of the crew. They blast off without him and begin the long journey home. Mark wakes up the next day with a bit of antenna piercing his suit and himself. He struggles back to the habitat building and performs emergency surgery. Then he assesses the supplies on hand and starts working on a plan to survive until the ARES IV mission comes in a couple of years.

The story moves at a nice, unhurried pace as Watney solves problem after problem and deals with occasional setbacks. The science looks real and smart (except that the filmmakers seem to have ignored the lower Martian gravity, but perhaps they were afraid of invoking the John Carter movie). Happily Watney establishes communication with NASA so he doesn't have to figure out everything himself. The balance between successes, failures, and bad luck is well done, keeping the story plausible and exciting.

If the movie wasn't based on a book, I'd say it was the successful melding of the movies Castaway and Apollo 13 without feeling derivative. It stands on its own as an entertaining yarn with fine performances from Damon and the rest of the cast. I saw the movie in 2D and only notice two or three scenes that were probably more impressive in 3D, but that's not enough to make it worth seeing in 3D.

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