Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Martian (2015)

8 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” lost some of its appeal after seeing it a few more times.

But only some. And it’s not even that big a deal; it’s just a nitpick I have. Honestly, the movie is still really good, and I like to watch it from time to time…though, I usually fast-forward through its scenes set on Earth.

Except for Donald Glover’s cameo–that’s still gold.

You have an astronaut/botanist who’s left for dead and stranded on Mars, and he has to do whatever he can to survive until help and (hopefully) rescue finally come. That’s the hook.

You have a subplot involving his crew in space, who don’t know their partner is still alive until they’re halfway home. That’s an interesting addition.

…And then, you have the people at NASA (played by great actors like Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Mackenzie Davis) reporting his death, finding out later that he’s still alive and on Mars, having to admit that they messed up, worried that they’ll look bad with the truth, yadda yadda yadda–I don’t need that, and I don’t care about that. They do find a way to bring him home (again, thanks to Donald Glover), but you could’ve just had the development come with the other astronauts, and nothing would’ve been missed. Plus, it would’ve decreased the film’s runtime by about 20-25 minutes!

I don’t care if it was in the book this was based on–it’s just not that interesting.

But thankfully, most of the focus is on where it should be, with Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who was part of a crew whose Mars mission is complicated by a strong dust storm. Thinking Mark died in the storm, the rest of the crew abort the mission and leave without him. But he is still alive; however, he’s unable to communicate with his crew or with Earth, meaning his only rescue option is the next Mars mission, four years later. So, now he has to find ways to survive until he can figure some things out–luckily, he’s a botanist, so he can find ways to grow food…on a planet where nothing grows.

What’s great about this story, aside from the interesting developments that our main character has to go through? (I mean, being trapped on a whole other planet–that’s WAY worse than being trapped on a desert island.) It’s how he responds to it. He, of course, has his initial moment of panic and concern (and this is after he’s had to perform self-surgery to get a piece of debris out of himself!), but then he simply asks, “What should I do now?” And he goes and finds ways to keep on going in what may or may not be a hopeless situation. That’s what I love about this film–Mark’s an optimist. He doesn’t give up easily, even when things go from bad to worse–he’ll just find a way to make it work again because he’s determined not to die on Mars.

Another thing I really like about “The Martian” is its sense of humor. With a sharply written script by Drew Goddard (most famous for “The Cabin in the Woods” and…well, now this), the moments of levity in this survival story are much appreciated. And it also helps that Mark is given some of the funnier lines in the movie.

Here are some of my favorites:
-“Mars will come to fear my botany powers.”
-“I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”
-“I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

Let’s see, was this script nominated for an Oscar? Please let the answer be “yes.” *scrolls through Wikipedia*………Yes!

Blend a comic script with Ridley Scott’s serious direction, and you have something unique. That’s really what it comes down to, more than “The Martian” being humorous–it’s hopeful. When it’s on Mars or on the spacecraft with the rest of the crew (played by Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie), the film really works. On Earth, however, not so much….again, except for the Donald Glover cameo. (I hope I never have to say this about another movie with Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Mackenzie Davis!)

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