Take time to see “The Martian”
Evan Wheatley - wrote on 10/21/16
“Everywhere I go I’m the first. It’s a strange feeling. Step outside the rover, first guy to be there. Climb that hill, first guy to do that. Four and a half billion years, nobody here. And now…me.”
- Mark Watney, “The Martian”
Imagine you’re the first person to be alone on an entire planet. You’re in a NASA exploration habitat that was built to last for 31 days. Your food supply is limited. If the oxygenator breaks, you’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks, you’ll die of thirst. If the habitat is breached, you’ll implode. What do you do? How do you survive? Is it possible to make it back home? For astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), dying is not an option.
You’d think a story about one man’s fight for survival on a planet several million years away from Earth would be bleak, but this return to form for director Ridley Scott is anything but. “The Martian” is one of the funniest movies I have seen all year, largely due to Drew Goddard’s adapted screenplay and Damon’s perfect execution of the sarcastic spaceman Mark Watney.
Each time something goes wrong, Watney delivers a line that showcases his optimism and comedic nature. One of my favorite lines comes a little over halfway into the movie, when Watney is forced to ration his food into smaller portions. As he eats a piece of meat the size of a Lego block and half of a red potato, he stares at the camera blankly and says: “It’s been seven days since I ran out of ketchup.”
While humorous moments like this are sprinkled throughout the film, Damon also captures the underlying despair and loneliness felt by Watney, and his desire to get back home.
The scene that hooked me comes right after Watney is marooned on the red planet. As a massive dust storm rages outside of the habitat, a defeated Watney looks through some of the belongings his crew left behind. Staring off into the darkness, he confidently mutters, “I’m not gonna die here.”
Damon’s performance is complimented by those of a large supporting cast consisting of Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean, who play members of Watney’s crew and the NASA men and women trying to get him home.
When Watney says, “Mars will come to fear my botany powers,” you believe him. His scientific wit is as entertaining as his humor, and you’re for rooting for Watney each step of the way. You cheer with each success, and empathize with each failure.
Ridley Scott and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski bring the desolate wasteland of Mars to life. Scott and Wolski create beauty from the barren world, and with each shot, the vast desert further contributes to the sense of isolation you feel while sitting in the theater.
“The Martian” stands among Ridley Scott’s best work, and Matt Damon provides one of his greatest performances. The scientific wonder the film evokes transcends both of their contributions however, and I am excited to see where we as humans progress in the coming years.
With several Mars-based projects currently being pursued by NASA as well as advancing technological developments, the future looks bright. Hopefully in our lifetime we will have the chance to witness history. Mars colonists will be able to say with a smile, “In your face Neil Armstrong.”