film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Martian 2015 * * * Stars

The MartianDirector: Ridley Scott
Year: 2015
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels

2015's The Martian (my latest review) is different from any film Ridley Scott has ever done. Yeah it's science fiction and all but you won't see aliens swallowing up Harry Dean Stanton whole, you won't see Harrison Ford retiring any replicants, and Russell Crowe ain't cutting off people's heads while yelling, "are you not entertained!" (oops, wrong genre). No this is probably Scott's first foray into feel-good territory, a sort of channeling within his inner, fantasy geek (Bill Nye and characters on The Big Bang Theory would be mighty proud). With "Martian", you gotta think All Is Lost in outer space (ha ha, get it), Cast Away on a planet millions of miles from Earth, and fictional splendor in the form of Apollo 13 (with added humor that sometimes deflates dramatic momentum). Matt Damon in the lead role, gives us an effectual, Hanks-ian performance. He even loses weight in the flick's third act to make it look legit.

Featuring a sun-drenched, bleached look (that's Ridley for ya), title cards when various troupers are introduced (I remember seeing this in Scorsese's The Aviator), plenty of bubble gum, seventies soundtrack hits, and dialogue that doesn't seem as clunky as was featured in last year's Interstellar (Matt Damon was also a stranded space cadet in that monster, box office hit), The Martian chronicles astronaut and goofy botanist, Mark Watney (played by Cambridge's favorite son). You see Mark is left for dead, stranded on Mars. His crew thinks he got pulverized by debris in a hellish sand storm. To make matters worse, NASA informs the world that he's departed and even has a bodiless funeral for him. Watney's solution: Try to stay alive long enough for anyone listening, to realize he's not in the grave and come back to pick him up (that could take up to three years). He figures out how to grow his own food, create water from almost nothing, and locate the Pathfinder probe (a robotic spacecraft from 1997). By detecting this probe, he will get the chance to regain contact with Earth.

Now based on "Martian's" trailer, I thought it might be silly for NASA to garner many man-hours, fork over millions of dollars for a rescue mission, and have five of their crew members risk lives to save one dude. I was erroneous. This vehicle makes you care about it all and then some. The actors do solid work across the board. You have Oscar nominees (Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor), villainous heirs (Sean Bean), and comedic veterans (Kristin Wiig, Mackenzie Davis) contributing threefold. The film's only heavy is perhaps, space and time (you could also throw in Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, a snobbish, cocksure NASA contingent). Ah heck, it's safe to say that The Martian is darn predictable (you know Watney's gonna make it home, come on). The journey to get there though is still pretty alluring and seat-grabbing (if you wanna be Iron Man, just puncture your vacuumed suit and let it ride, hint hint).

In conclusion, various, big time directors have tried their hand at making quality cinema via the "Red Planet" (that includes the swooping Brian De Palma and John Carpenter). They failed miserably where Scott at least succeeds on a few levels. In the past, some of his work has lacked sentimentality relying on violent images and distant temperaments to get the job done. Here, he paints a picture more human, more amicable. Yeah The Martian is a bit overlong (a two hour running time could have sufficed things) and it sledgehammers comedy in the face of death and dying. However, when the lights go down and you have popcorn in hand, there's entertainment value plus intellectual insight to keep everyone occupied. Oh and you know what, David Bowie's "Starman" never sounded so good. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

No comments:

Post a Comment