Review by J.T. Johnson
Over the past few years, there has been a lot of good science-fiction material coming out of Hollywood. The rebooted “Star Trek” franchise has been an exciting return for that series while“Gravity” saw another attempt of an astronaut trying to get safely back home. Finally, last year’s “Interstellar” saw director Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey trying to save the people of Earth by traveling out amongst the distant stars.
Now, director Ridley Scott, a master of the genre himself, returns once again with a slightly more uplifting story than we’ve seen from his previous endeavors. However, don’t let that make you think he’s gone soft. While there is a greater spirit and quite a bit of humor thrown in, Scott still knows how to excite audiences with a great story of survival and a near-perfect handle over extremely technical filmmaking skills.
The story is a simple one that cuts straight to the chase. On their eighteenth day on Mars, the crew of Ares III is hit by a massive Martian storm and forced to evacuate. Matt Damon’s Mark Whatney is hit by debris and the crew understandably thinks that he has perished. They decide to leave him behind, but surprise, Mark’s not so dead after all.
There are then two major plot points as the film screams through its two hours and twenty minute runtime. First, there is Mark’s attempts at staying alive long enough for a rescue mission to come pick him up. This includes finding a way to generate more food and ration what he has left while hoping that no other bad turns happen while he waits.
The other story is back on Earth, where experts at NASA try desperately to figure out how to get to Mark and how to bring him home safely. This includes Mission Control, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and maybe even the Chinese working together to work out solutions to get him supplies and bring up the launch of the next mission.
Both stories are as equally exciting mainly because we love the characters found within each one. Damon has the particularly tough job because he has to make the audience like him, otherwise we simply don’t care if he gets home or not. This is Matt Damon, though, and he is easily able to give a performance that makes you instantly like him and he pulls off a performance that is as good as other one man shows such as Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”, for example.
The biggest thing that works in Mark’s favor is that he allows himself the ability to see the humor in his situation. This includes letting us know that technically, he is the greatest botanist on his planet and that he may actually be the first space pirate due to how maritime law technically works.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, you have people who are just as equally likable in their own way. These people care about getting Mark back on Earth once they realize he is alive. Their roles are similar to that of the crew found in “Apollo 13” where they have to go through the unexpected problem of bringing a crew member safely back down to Earth.
On the technical side of things, Scott has given audiences a breathtaking sci-fi film based mostly on real science. It is also a surprisingly uplifting film and quite the promotion for NASA, an organization that has had a fantastic year with more successes including the New Horizons mission to Pluto. In the end though, we get another thrilling addition to the sci-fi genre and if you’ve been a big fan of films such as “Gravity” and “Interstellar”, then this is perfect entertainment for you.