'The Martian' Movie Review: You'll Believe We Are Meant For Mars

NOTE: This article is a contribution and do not necessarily represent the views of Player One.
"The Martian" strands Matt Damon on Mars and this time he isn't a crazy idiot like in "Interstellar."
"The Martian" strands Matt Damon on Mars and this time he isn't a crazy idiot like in "Interstellar." 20th Century Fox

Watching Ridley Scott’s new movie The Martian feels like grinding up and smoking the brain of Elon Musk. Not only is The Martian the kind of rousing, can-do adventure movie it seemed Hollywood didn’t really make anymore, The Martian is also a tribute to human ingenuity, cooperation, and scientific positivity. You’ll believe it when The Martian says the world can be made better through science.

'The Martian' Movie Review

The Martian opens on just another day on Mars, as the Ares 3 mission team collects soil samples, runs routine maintenance, and banters with the ease of old roommates. Then a storm hits, bad things happen, and astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left for dead on the martian surface.

What follows is a tense multi-year quest for survival, as Watney sciences the shit out of every resource at his disposal. The Martian plays the early game with tense intelligence, sticking with Watney for the first 50 or so days of his isolation, investing early in his despair and attempts to set up survival systems.

'The Martian' Movie Trailer

The Martian wisely embraces the technical detail of Andy Weir’s novel, diving deep into calorie counts, farming, and the dangerous chemistry required for Watney to set up his miniature water factory. Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard’s script keeps the tension high, presenting each new challenge as fundamentally insurmountable. Multiple sequences in The Martian had me digging nails into my palm, even if everything about movies assures you that Watney will find a brilliant way out of each bind.

While the appeal of Matt Damon, space Crusoe, is obvious, The Martian manages to keep up the breakneck pace and soaring science shivers even when we return to Earth and the action largely moves to NASA boardrooms.

The space agency of The Martian is a flattering and muscular vision of one possible future. there are conflicting agendas here, with NASA PR rep Kristen Wiig and NASA director Jeff Daniels serving as The Martian’s nominal antagonists, which basically means they have completely reasonable reasons for not wanting to risk more lives in dangerous rescue efforts. The Earth-based stuff in The Martian seems like the most likely place for this adaptation to fall flat, but instead becomes the idealistic heart of the movie, as people distant from Watney’s isolation combine all of the best human minds to bring home (except Daniel Glover, he sucks).

The third heat in The Martian is Mark Watney’s fellow mission members, who make a fateful decision that could doom or save Watney’s life. Here then is the moral center of The Martian, as astronauts at the top of their game deliberate whether or not to risk themselves for another person. It’s strikingly effective in conveying the human stakes on the line.

The Martian succeeds as both a thriller and science fiction by staying relentlessly grounded and focused. The Mars mission of The Martian is perfectly tuned to feel both possible and speculative. Upon first seeing the Hermes spacecraft that brought humans to Mars for the Ares missions I squirted out hot tears. Here’s a vision of the future that looks in keeping with both 2001: A Space Odyssey and old episodes of Nova. We can do this, you’ll think. Mars is not so far off and not so unattainable as our current economic malaise would lead us to think.

We can do this.

And that’s what’s so fantastic about The Martian.

The Martian is the paean to scientific progress and optimism that Tomorrowland was trying to be earlier this year. It’s the sci-fi movie you wanted Interstellar to be. The Martian is prestige space drama of the highest order, something we haven’t seen in theaters since at least Apollo 13 (though on first pass I prefer The Martian).

The Martian will convince you that humans are worthy of space and that human minds will one day overcome all our petty bullshit and finally overcome the chains that keep us a one-world species.

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