INCLUDE_DATA

Ridley’s THE MARTIAN washes away the stank of Ridley’s PROMETHEUS

Posted on October 16th, 2015
Posted on October 16th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

Gravity” took an admirable stab at creating a realistic space drama in 2013, and while I found it to be a near-perfect film in terms of photography, acting and effects, it seemed to leave some people cold. Some disliked having to watch one character act alone through most of the film, while others decried its unrealistic scientific aspects. Whatever the case, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” seems to avoid a few of those problems and while I found it no better than “Gravity”, it sure proves that Scott hasn’t lost his touch after directing the space fiasco that was “Prometheus”.

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Andy Weir, “The Martian” stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney who is abandoned and left for dead on Mars when his crew loses him in a dust storm and has to make an emergency evacuation from the planet. With no means of communication and a limited amount of supplies, Watney must use his skills as a botanist to create water and grow food in order to hang on to life. When NASA finally figures out he is alive, the agency and his crew en route to Earth in the Aeres III must come up with a plan to bring him home alive.

What sets this film apart from “Gravity” is the long timeframe of the plot and how it bounces the story from Watney to NASA and to the crew on the Ares III. The narrative deftly jumps amongst these three settings, which makes the story feel like it’s moving along quickly even though much time passes between these cuts.

Damon carries the majority of the film acting alone, which only the most accomplished actors could pull off. If Damon was going for an Oscar this year, this was probably his best bet, but I suspect his performance here could be forgotten when the prestige pictures start appearing in the next month or so. His only regular communication is with the viewer whom he addresses in his video diaries where he explains his plans for staying alive and how he is dealing with these situations emotionally. This never feels like a crutch or a time waster and it helps deliver some much-needed exposition and character development. This also allows for running jokes as he gets to complain about how long its been since he ran out of condiments for food or how the only music he has to listen is the disco music left behind by his mission commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain).

On the NASA end, we have Jeff Daniels playing the head of the agency who has to make some difficult decisions that may undermine Watney’s chances. There is also Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Benedict Wong who serve as problem solvers and decision makers who are willing to sacrifice anything to save Watney. Unfortunately, Kristen Wiig appears as a NASA bureaucrat who can’t seem to play it straight long enough to prove she wasn’t completely miscast for the film. Up in the Ares III, Oscar winner Jessica Chastain proves she has the chops to play a mission commander as expertly as she played a CIA operative in “Zero Dark Thirty”. Michael Pena once again appears the comic relief – but a lot more toned down than his performance in “Ant-Man” – and I almost didn’t recognize Sebastian Stan who played the Winter Soldier/Bucky in the “Captain America” films. Perhaps audiences recognize him more easily when he becomes the next Captain America (it’s going to happen, you’ll see).

I’ve come across several articles about how a potential mission to Mars and the reality of space travel holds up in “The Martian”. It would seem the film got a great many things correct and some of the things it didn’t get right could either be explained away as minor details or by future leaps in technology we have yet to make. There are a few serendipitous moments that are hard to buy, but then again, we only need to remember the true events of Apollo 13 to realize that miracles of survival in space do happen.

There are a few other elements about this film that stand out. One involves the idea that everyone on Earth is following what is happening to Mark Watney and is rooting for him to survive and return, even though he can’t see it. Even adversaries like China makes an investment in his wellbeing by launching a probe to resupply him with food and other necessities. By the end, the whole world is watching and holding its breath along with the audience and that makes it all the more exciting.

The “Martian” is a fine survival-in-space film, a rare genre that isn’t always uplifting. For similar films I would recommend these: “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” (1964), “Marooned” (1969), “The Cold Equations” (1996), “Apollo 13” (1995), and of course “Gravity” (2013).

4 and ½ out of 5

No Comments •

Comments

Search
Search Form
Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Nightmares Film Festival
2017 A Night of Horror Film Festival
2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
2017 Oxford Film Festival
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival
2017 Grenada Afterglow Film Festival
2017 Shiver International Film Festival

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

The Small Town Critic’s SCREENWRITING SERVICES
Follow Coop on Twitter...
    follow me on twitter
    Follow smalltowncritic on Twitter
    Archives
    Subscribe via Email!

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Subscribe via RSS feed!