Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Martian Was Sci-Fi Perfection

      The Golden Globes died for me this year.  Science fiction director extraordinaire Ridley Scott's adapation of Andy Weir's critically acclaimed novel The Martian won Best Comedy.  BEST COMEDY!!! Are you kidding me??  Now, I never read the book...but any idiot with half a brain could tell you just from reading the back cover that it is decidedly NOT a comedy.  What it most certainly IS is a fabulously acted SCI-FI film with gorgeous environments, accurate science, and stunning visuals.
      Matt Damon plays protagonist Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer working on Mars as part of the Ares III mission to the red planet.  After a suprisingly violent sandstorm forces the crew to make an immediate departure from the planet's surface, Mark is struck by debris and believed dead.  The crew retreats to the Hermes orbital station and begins their return voyage to Earth.  Mark wakes up after the storm subsides and makes his way back to the HAB where the astronauts had been living on the surface.  Faced with immeasurable odds, Mark must overcome each obstacle one at a time if he ever hopes to survive long enough to make it home alive.
      Damon's portrayal of Watney is superb.  It's always dangerous when you put such a recognizable and iconic actor in such a role because it can be hard to immerse yourself in the film.  It's so important to be able to sympathize with the plight of the survivor in films such as this and the added variable of survival in space makes it all the more harrowing.  As such, prominant actors can often be more of a distraction than an enhancement and make it harder for the viewer to put themselves in the protaganists shoes.  This is not the case in The Martian.  Damon is superb.  Supporting actors were also on their game, most notably Jeff Daniels as the Director of NASA and Jessica Chastain as Ares III mission commander Melissa Lewis.
      While the film certainly utilizes a heavy amount of comedic relief, mostly from Watney as he talks to his video log, it is meant to help keep Mark and the viewer sane as the notion of years alone on the red planet begins to sink in.  It's important to make light of any dire situation to avoid panic and ultimately failure.  The fact that this sarcastic, comedic relief was misconstrued as outright comedy by the motion picture elite is downright embarrassing.  I'll leave it at that.
      The films visuals are brilliant and showcase the beauty of the Martian surface.  Large rock formations, sweeping dunes, and a glowing orange sky serve as the backdrop to Mark's survival activities.  They are a constant reminder of the perils and beauty of space.  While the film certainly had its pitfalls, overall I can't speak highly enough about the acting, script, and visuals.  When combined, they do exactly what science fiction is supposed to do: inspire, intrigue, and continually tempt humanity to open the Pandora's Box that is deep space travel.

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