‘The Martian’ brings outer space closer to home.
Big, unstable, uninhabited, dark, isolated, intimidating and deeply profound against all odds: director Ridley Scott’s “next big thing,” The Martian, takes these adjectives to the next level. Assuming that they go hand-in-hand with our conceptual guesses of space, Scott applies them directly to his sci-fi extravaganza and protagonist Mark Watney, our hero among the stars. And it’s for these exact reasons that The Martian brings space just a little closer to home.
The film starts on the Ares III mission to Mars, when an overwhelming Martian storm forces the team of astronauts to end their mission six days in. In the midst of such a disaster, a broken satellite takes out botanist/engineer Mark Watney, leaving mission commander Melissa Lewis with no choice but to leave him behind on the deserted planet. However, within months of his abandonment, Watney uses satellite photos to advise NASA of his survival and call for help. The Ares III crew eventually find out and take the mission into their own hands with help from Vincent Kapoor (Mars’ mission director) and some other unlikely sources.
Hence, The Martian becomes more than just your average sci-fi thriller. Rather, it acts as a rollercoaster, keeping the audience jumping up and down in their seats, guessing what Watney will make of his horrifying situation. One second, he uses his botanist skills to grow potatoes within the Hab as a source of food and oxygen. A second later, his helmet splits at the center of the glass, bringing him back to the starting line.
In this sense, Ridley Scott takes something as unfamiliar as colonizing an unsettled terrain and makes it feel innate and inherent in our everyday struggle to survive. He does this through Drew Goddard’s fanatically-written script and Dariusz Wolski’s incredible cinematography. With strong writing and strong camerawork, the audience feels a part of the mission, a part of the abandonment, and a part of the cause.
Nevertheless, it would be difficult to bring any of this to life without the strong ensemble cast that such a film calls for. Matt Damon takes on Mark Watney with a genuine blend of sincerity, hard work, and sarcasm (enough of it to make him a flawed hero, of sorts). In addition to Damon, The Martian recruits a plethora of celebrities from all walks of life. For instance, Jeff Daniels takes on NASA president Teddy Sanders with an empirical power-hold like no other, while actor Chiwetel Ejiofor adds a level of humanity to Vincent Kapoor’s high-end position at the Space Headquarters. And if that isn’t enough, both comedians Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover make appearances in what appears to be their most dramatic roles to-date. Together, the troupe of actors adds another layer of depth and reality to a not-so-far-fetched abstraction of space travel gone wrong.
Overall, The Martian leaves a mark, and not just Watney. If anything, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece renews our faith in his wide array of work, as well as the idea of taking on the unknown. And that’s exactly what we can take away from this film; it is a 141-minute metaphor of embracing new things and new ideas, even if we are forced into them. And who knows? In the end, it might just save our lives.
The Martian is playing locally in and around Montclair! Some theaters include AMC Essex Green Cinema 9 in West Orange, AMC Clifton Commons 16 in Clifton, and even Bow Tie Bellevue Cinema 4 in Montclair. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com today!