What initially led me to this film was that it starred Matt Damon, and the trailers I watched for this PG-13, sci-fi adventure looked intriguing. Matt is a favorite actor of mine, and it seemed he was well cast in the role of an astronaut stranded alone on Mars, with nothing to rely on for his survival but his intelligence and what remains of a scientific outpost.
I didn’t go for the 3D show, thinking it would detract from the story. (I liked watching Avatar in 3D, but I didn’t think The Martian would have those beautiful seeds of the sacred tree floating at me like delicate airborne jellyfish, just a lot of hurtling space debris, so passed on that movie technology.)
Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is likable, skilled in critical thinking, with a PhD in botany, and also quite knowledgeable about engineering and the maintenance of mission equipment. He gets left behind during a severe storm that necessitated the abandonment of the mission, and evacuation of the crew. Believing him to be dead, the five remaining crewmembers launch off the planet towards Earth.
Mark, however, has survived. He must bring all his skills as a scientist and rational thinker to his predicament. What to do about food, water, and oxygen on a planet where none of these exists? What good is it to survive if NASA doesn’t know he’s alive? How will communication be restored, and is there any hope for a rescue?
A friend of mine on Facebook said he didn’t go see the movie because he knew how it ended. It’s not the destination, friend, it’s the journey, and what a journey it was. I especially liked that it wasn’t some shoot ‘em up film filled with hate and violence against others. It celebrated the human spirit to survive, scientific inquiry and cooperation, and the exploration of space by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration for those who may have forgotten).
Other main characters were also well cast: Jeff Daniels as director of NASA (The Newsroom), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty and The Help) as the commander of the Ares III (she had a great role as an educated woman with a calm presence, a strategist capable of making tough decisions and not unwilling to place her own life in danger in order to save another), mission chief Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Kristen Wiig as NASA’s spokeswoman (the only movie I’d ever seen her in was Bridesmaids, so I wondered about her being cast, but it was fine.)
Just a few days prior to the film’s release, NASA announced evidence of water on the surface of Mars. Future exploration of Mars is not that far off, and we can only hope that space exploration, with the coordinated efforts of NASA and the space programs of other nations, will assist us in understanding this complex and wonderful universe we live in. In the meantime, enjoy the journey of Mark Watney as The Martian.