Mars Attacks

Matt Damon sure needs rescuing a lot, huh? Besides being the titular rescuee in Saving Private Ryan, he was the focus of an involved pick-up mission in Interstellar, too. And here we are again, sending a team of experts to go get him in The Martian. Stop getting left behind, Matt Damon!

The Martian, based on Andy Weir's 2014 novel, is about a team of astronauts, led by Captain Lewis (Jessica Chastain) exploring the surface of Mars. When a sudden, violent dust storm sends them scrambling back to their ship, they mistakenly believe that botanist Mark Watney (Damon) has been killed in the chaos, and leave without him. The story then splits into two main threads: Watney's plan to remain alive long enough for the next manned mission to come pick him up, and Earth-bound scientists' attempts to rescue him before his supplies give out.

Normally, I kick off these reviews with the things I liked before I get to any nitpicks I might have. I'm going to flip it in this case, because there's really not a lot to criticize. There are a few too many characters. Not in the sense that the story is too difficult for an audience to follow - it's just that a couple of people wind up standing around with nothing much to contribute. There's a running bit about Watney hating the music that Lewis has left behind that is not as funny as they think it is. I saw it in 3D, which was probably unnecessary. The dust storm looked great, but I wouldn't have missed much else if I had gone to a 2D screening.

That's about it for complaints! Pretty minor, right? The rest of it was extremely cool. I've seen a term bandied about regarding movies like this: Competence Porn. That may be a crude way of putting it, but I really love the themes it implies. In most movies, goals are accomplished by renegades and mavericks and lone wolves. Even when people work together, they're generally operating outside "The System". Competence Porn movies, on the other hand, celebrate intelligence and people working at their best under difficult circumstances and rules. No cowboy is going to sweep in and save the day here. It takes rigorous scientific application to get the job done. The only bad guy is circumstance, and audiences don't get to see enough movies with that premise. The last movie I can think of to convey the shockingly rare idea that people can think their way out of a problem was Contagion. Hey! Another Damon-in-peril movie!

There are action setpieces, too, but I'm glad they take a backseat to the plot. All the settings, be they an explosive decompression or a quiet monologue about potatoes, are shot gorgeously, and make you feel like Watney really is trapped on Mars itself. All in all, it was a really nifty film. A combination of terrific cinematography, solid acting, and a fantastic story have made this one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

The Martian: A-


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime