The Martian (2015)
Bring Him Home
Since a crowd-favorite space franchise just launched a new game recently, why don't we get a little more close to home with some local cluster space action? The movie's gotten plenty of high praise from across the board - scientists, readers, movie going critics - so it seem redundant that I review it. Like a man trapped on Mars doing his best to survive however, I too can be persistent in talking to myself. Grab your potatoes and grow your beard, let's check it out.
Although the plot probably exists in other movies, I have to admit none come to mind off hand - considering it's basically "abandoned in space" the movie, I want to say that it must already be out there somewhere. If it is though, I imagine that this one manages to still tweak it a bit with all it's emphasis on a more grounded science - whether it's super accurate or not is out of my league, I stopped with science after school. For on screen presentation though, none of it feels outlandish. Growing potatoes in dirt using fertilizer and water? Sounds legit. Fancy flight path talk and remote guidance? I buy it. Making water through chemical reactions and fire? Works for me. This is all rather important, as to get hooked by this movie, it requires it to sound like it's an actual thing - unlike Star Trek or more drastic renditions like Star Wars where sometimes it's nothing more than space jargon consisting of all sorts of words that might as well be made up to explain things.
If you haven't figured it out from trailers or other people talking about it, the plot boils down to one man's attempt to survive on Mars after his team makes an emergency leave of their situation when he's presumed dead after being impacted by a giant dish on the way to the lander. Although he is the main focus, we also get to see the other side of things - that is to say NASA and it's reactions to things as they unfold. There's a little political drama going on from the main higher-ups, not all of which decisions seem morally sound to an not involved observer. Logically speaking, things can be pretty rationalized out even when it feels like it's just "the wrong" thing to do. As much as I came to the movie for the plight on Mars, this other story section is needed to really let the drama echo and raise the stakes as things go wrong on both accounts.
Luckily enough, that acting is pretty well on point in this movie. Our lead sells his experience like a vending machine sells candy - heartily - and the support staff likewise does their best to keep pace. Yes, there are certainly some characters who - by nature of their character or maybe not - hang back in the shadows compared to the more stellar performances in the flick. Some of these characters aren't around enough for you to really care about the performance grade, and other times it just makes you feel a bit like you might have missed a scene to explain how they are playing out. For the most part however, they keep the drama and experience on a whole solid.
The soundtrack helps set the mood, although it's unfortunate (or maybe not) that it has enough classical hits from Donna Summer, David Bowie, and ABBA to keep your head grooving long after the more original score and movie has ended. Audio balance is very good, and I feel at times certain sounds are boosted over what they should be just to get under your skin - such as the ever present chewing while talking or other little sound bits. As usual, I can only make suppositions as to what's exactly done for a reason and what's not in a movie - since I didn't make it or anything - but overall sound is used pretty well.
Effects work is pretty decent throughout - with a few little bit moments seeming less impressive (like the space water moment) than the overall majority of the rest of the film. The planet-side space suits are quite cool looking - even if I recognized a pair of gloves I once bought from an airsoft retailer - and give the impression that they are functional and somewhat grounded in reality. The EVA suits are far more "space suit" in the thought of imagination, being the big old bulky things one usually would think of when imagining someone going on a lunar walk. The Mars setting also looks quite nice, giving that nice alien feel to it - even if it's mostly all just reddish sand and rocks outside the space habitat and vehicles.
To be told, the pacing was pretty well done and despite many moments not being "action packed" it still never had a moment where I felt bored while watching. There were a few moments where we'd need to re-hear a delivery while a different character would say it out loud (instead of just swapping mid-read between the two characters), but beyond that much of it flows nicely and doesn't feel redundant or otherwise like unnecessary filler. Sure, there's some parts that aren't really necessary for the plot advancement, but they are placed in there few and far between. In all honesty, the hardest part of this movie I found to believe in is just the huge turnout all over the world for the astronaut rescue mission. For some reason, I just can't see the world as ever being as excited about space as that initial Lunar landing so many years ago - and that's a little sad.
Beyond the rather small list of complaints out there, I don't really see any reason that someone wouldn't really like this movie - unless your one of those people who just can't stand a movie because a single actor is in it (and that actor happens to be Matt Damon). Honestly, I feel that he does a great job with his performance in this one - as does most the cast - and for something that can come off as a bit of a meh pitch it comes out quite enjoyable. If nothing else, it's far more enjoyable than I found Gravity to be, and much less rambling than I felt like Interstellar was. What I'm trying to say is, give this one a shot and you might find out you like it.