Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Martian

A manned mission to Mars has to be prematurely aborted when the crew is caught in a storm.  Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead and abandoned on the surface of Mars when the crew makes an emergency lift off.  However, Watney is not dead and must figure out how to survive on Mars until a rescue mission can be mounted.

The premise made me think of Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

There is a great deal in this movie that should be emotionally inspiring, like in The Right Stuff or Star Wars, but the movie keeps its emotions very low key.  When Watney stares in awe at the Martian landscape, we don't feel quite the same emotion that the character does, like for example how we felt when Luke Skywalker looked at the double sunset in Star Wars.  Maybe the movie just needs some John Williams music to inspire us.  Instead the film feels like a "procedural" movie where we follow the character step by step as he comes up with ingenious ways to survive.  In this respect, the movie does not seem that different from All is Lost.  Even the ending, which should have been an emotional triumph, is understated to the point of being anticlimactic.

I think that the film attempts to be a "hard" science fiction because it makes a big effort to be scientifically accurate.  It mostly succeeds, although there are areas where I question the scientific accuracy.  Would we really be able to hear sounds in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere?  It made no sense to me that they had to use a bomb on a spaceship to vent some air; couldn't they open a hatch?  Likewise, trying to poke a hole in space suit to give the astronaut some momentum would probably just make him spin.  It doesn't seem so believable to me that they would be able to rescue the astronaut because there are a great many things that could go wrong where any one of them would result in complete failure.

Some of the space walk scenes will seem familiar to those who have seen Gravity.

Strange how Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain were both in Interstellar.  This was nagging my brain a little as I watched the movie.

There is much in this movie to enjoy, but it also seems like a lost opportunity to make a better movie with more emotional impact.

Rating:  A-

The movie seems fond of using swear words in situations that don't really warrant it.  It is rated PG-13 for swear words and brief nudity.

P.S.  The first time I saw this film, I didn't think it was very emotionally moving, and that the film was a lost opportunity to stir our emotions.  On the second viewing the movie holds up pretty well.  The film is emotionally moving, but in a subtle way.

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