Another movie we recorded during last month's free HBO weekend because we missed it during its general theater release, The Martian gives me a secret thrill. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by indie author Andy Weir, who published it in 2011.
As usual since the movie has been out for over a year, I'm not giving a SPOILERS warning.
There must be a universal rule that if you stick Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain in a hard science fiction movie, I will love it.
The Martian follows the plight of stranded astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, who is accidentally left behind during the Ares III manned Mars mission.
Man versus Nature movies rarely work when there's only one character. Humans have an aversion to watching silence, much less one endless monologue. And it takes one hell of an actor to keep someone's attention for any length of time in that silence. (Will Smith in I Am Legend is a prime example.)
Drew Goddard's screenplay and Ridley Scott's direction find ways to alleviate the quiet. The movie is edited to flip between Watley's efforts and initial loneliness, the guilt of the crew of the Ares III over Watley's apparent death, and the stunned realization of NASA that he's alive before their frantic efforts to put together a rescue mission.
There's a lot of similarities between The Martian and Apollo 13. Frankly, I don't see how the filmmakers could do otherwise. We're still talking about the same federal government agency. In fact, a friend commented that they tried to turn Jeff Daniels's NASA director, Theodore Sanders, into the so-called antagonist and it didn't work. To me, Sanders was what the director of any government agency always is and has to be, a politician looking at how to spin a disaster into something good. Or at least, not get your ass fired.
I want to show The Martian to every kid in the world to show that knowledge and ingenuity can carry you a long ways, but in the end, we humans caring about each other is how we all survive at the end of the day.
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