The Martian (2015)

12A | 144 min |
Writers: Drew Goddard (screenplay), Andy Weir (book)
Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig |

Talking about Ridley Scott’s new film, The Martian, with a work colleague, she asked me ‘Is it a Space movie?’ I told her it was. ‘I don’t watch space movies’, she replied. I see her point. Many ‘space movies’ spend a lot of money on CGI special effects and shock horror violence but can be very disappointing to watch. I told her that this was more like Robinson Crusoe or Castaway. It happened to be set on Mars but could easily have been a desert island in the Pacific Ocean, the Brazilian jungle or somewhere in Antarctica.

On the other hand, Ridley Scott rarely disappoints. He has made one or two very good ‘space movies’ in his time. Unlike his classic Alien series and Bladerunner, this is a positive feel-good movie where humanity triumphs over adversity. Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself marooned on Mars after he is injured and left for dead by his colleagues in the middle of a severe storm.

Things don’t look good for him as the supplies left in the forward base on Mars will not last until the next scheduled mission and everyone on earth and his homeward bound erstwhile comrades on the Mars mission thinks he is dead. Watney uses his skills as a botanist to improve his survival chances by growing spuds in a mixture of Martian soil and his own shit after a risky attempt to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water succeeds. All he has to do is survive long enough to make the trip to the scheduled site of the next Mars landing and let the folks back home know he is there. Not good odds…

The narrative is helped by Damon’s character posting regular video updates for posterity in case he doesn’t survive. The script is clever, witty and compelling and the science is believable without being too geeky. We really care for this character. We identify with his gallows humour and feel for the tortured mission commander (Jessica Chastlain) when she learns that the man she left for dead is still alive and apparently beyond her help. This film is terrific entertainment with a super soundtrack including Bowie’s Space Oddity and lots of seventies disco music. Your attention never flags despite the fact it runs for two hours and twenty minutes. You’ll enjoy it – even if you don’t like ‘space films’.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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