Last night I went to see “The Martian”. The survival science fiction genre has never really been my forte.
I appreciate film studios interest in space and extra terrestrial dramas, but I can’t say that any one of these films have been on my list for a casual Friday night viewing. Enter my “space fan loving of anything sci-fi” partner who convinced me that going to the movies to watch The Martian was the only cool thing to do on a Friday night. Next minute we are running down North End Road, late (as usual) for our 9:20 viewing at Fulham Broadway Vue Cinema.
Upon arrival, we were thrown into one of cinemas most challenging questions, to popcorn or not to popcorn? I voted no, and luckily due to time we bypassed the candy popcorn bar, found our seat and made ourselves comfortable for the two and a half hours of space screening to come.
You can probably recognise from my slightly condescending tone here that I wasn’t overly pleased with the choice of movie. It is true. Despite rave reviews, I remain skeptical of any film set in space. This has nothing to do with the talent of acting, screenplay or director; it just so happens that I do not enjoy the genre of science fiction. I recoil at the thought of watching Interstellar (despite the presence of Matthew Mcconaughey), utterly refuse to watch Alien and retreat at any mention of Star Trek.
My only consolidation for the Martian was that Matt Damon had the starring role. The film begins lightheartedly with the Ares III manned mission to Mars crew teasing each other as they study the surface of Mars. However, a massive Martian storm hits and the crew is forced to abandon their mission and launch home. Mark Watney (Damon) is hit with debris as he tries to locate the spacecraft in the storm. He is presumed dead and the mission commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is forced to leave the planet, leaving Watney behind.
Watney, of course, is not dead and wakes to find himself completely alone on a foreign uninhabited planet. He makes his way back to the artificial habitat, the Hab in which the crew had constructed for their 30-day mission, and attempts to align himself to the fact that he has 60 days left of food with the next mission to Mars scheduled to land in 1480 days. Luckily, Watney is a botanist and we witness his ongoing struggle to grow potatoes in a planet that can’t grow anything.
Andy Weir first published the book, the Martian for free on his blog for fun, equipped with a high level of space language and a rather comedic tone. Perhaps Weir’s commandment of the sci-tech language, which is highly impenetrable for some, has something to do with his software engineering background. Regardless of the high tech lingo, I found that the Martian was actually, to my great surprise a highly enjoyable, funny and thought provoking film.
Matt Damon is excellent in the title role and the supporting cast led by Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean, are outstanding. It is seriously a commendable performance by all cast members, not one person lets the side down (a rarity in Hollywood blockbusters nowadays).
I think my reservations concerning space films are that they often have a dystopian tone. I emerge, battered and sci-fi bruised, sad and disheartened by the fact that the end of the world will be coming soon, or if not, aliens will be shortly arriving to take over mankind. This kind of depressing resonance has no effect on my other half, and throughout The Martian he is like a kid the night before Christmas; excited, perched on the edge of his seat, occasionally interrupting the film to lean over and tell me some high tech spacial thing. When we come out, two and a half hours later, he seems convinced that he is going to sign himself up for the impending Mission to Mars.
Personally, I have my doubts that he will qualify.
Authors Note: the cover photo you see is my partner’s head cropped into a spaceman suit. Yes, his love of space knows no bounds.