review – the martian

The_Martian_film_poster

“I’m going to have to science the s**t out this.” That quote – from Mark Watney (Matt Damon) – from a point in this movie where he’s faced with yet another impossible obstacle – does not reflect the tone or tenor of the film. This is a movie without vulgarity, sex, nudity, or human violence. But that quote does neatly summarize the plot. When he’s left alone on Mars – and help is four years and 140 million miles away – that’s how Mark deals with every challenge. That’s how he stays hopeful, sane, and alive. Here Damon is the glue that holds this long – at points, very long – story together and enables it to be geeky and nerdy without losing us. Hey, there’s stuff in here about thermodynamics and the burning of elements and hexadecimals – and we’re willing to accept it realizing that we don’t understand it, but we’re sure he does. He’s cynical, scared, thoughtful, filled with false bravado, trying to force his problems to line up behind each other so he can pick them off one by one.

This is a Ridley Scott movie and he directed (among many other films) “Blade Runner,” “Gladiator” and “Thelma and Louise” so he knows more than a little bit about heart, heroics and humanity – and he sets it all in the midst of a sweeping desert landscape where it always looks like sunset. One small complaint (beside its length): his cast here is so large, it’s unclear if they all have enough to do – and most of them make little or no difference. This is a complex story with lots of moving parts, but Matt Damon (like Sandra Bulloch in “Gravity”) gives us a human connection in the vastness of space and keeps us focused on what this is all about: an impossible rescue of someone we really like – and want to bring home. This is thrilling, witty, suspenseful, and very enjoyable entertainment for the whole family. And the kids who see it are more likely to pay more attention in science class. Just in case…

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