The Martian
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The Martian

Of late, the output of Hollywood has become synonymous with unoriginality it is such a pleasure to come across something so refreshingly brilliant they can reaffirm an old movie buff’s faith in cinema. The specific, referring to is the latest offering by director Ridley Scott, ‘The Martian.' Superficially it may seem to be a retread of any number of survival movies such as’ Cast Away’ replacing Tom Hanks on a deserted island with Matt Damon stranded alone on Mars. The main thing they have in common is that both movies stand as testaments indomitable spirit and will to survive at any cost. An uncharted island may provide daunting charges for survival but at least the character that Mr. Hanks portrayed have ready access to water, food, and air. ‘The Martian’ based on the novel of the same name written by Andy Weir adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard brought to life by Ridley Scott. Mr. Scott is undeniably one of the great directors of his generation much of his oeuvre is decidedly dark in tone often described as neo-noir been a significant influence on most of his films. Although the central theme of this film is a man fighting to survive against overwhelming odds with the depressing number of ways for him to meet his end, the story remains pervaded with such hope, such unbridled optimism that the unyielding be positive attitude the main character is infectious, lifting the spirits of the audience. The production of this film started intriguing story provided such a firm foundation could showcase the talents of a cast of amazing actors. Despite the fact that Matt Damon is undeniably the main focus of the film each of the other actors still the movie with such nuanced performances that the results are like the signature meal of a five-star chef.

Taking place in the year 2035 story begins with the crew of Ares III during the early stages of their mission of exploration. The date is Sol 18, referring to the 18th sidereal day, which is over 37 minutes longer than our 24 hour day. The mission was supposed to last 31 Sols but while they were in the middle of performing your duties they receive warning that a dust storm predicted for later in the day was arriving within minutes and was far more massive than anticipated. The module used to access Hermes; the orbiting return vessel was in danger of tripping over, and they had to scrub the mission and launch now to save the crew. With no practice efficiency, all head for the launch module. NASA has trained them for almost every contingency is still something can happen that could never fully anticipate. A piece of debris slams into the team's botanist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) throwing him off their path to the murky darkness of the storm. His biometric telemetry sensor was damaged leaving the rest of the team to believe that he is dead. Reluctantly the mission commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) has to make it difficult but urgent decision; Watley is dead, and they have to launch now.

When Lewis contacts mission control about the loss of a crew member everyone understandably despondent with the director of NASA, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is the responsibility of taking a more dramatic view of the situation. His fighting to arrange for funding of the future Ares missions is reticent to say anything that might jeopardize the projects, a sentiment echoed by the director of media relations; Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig) mandate is to keep NASA favorably seen by the public. Meanwhile, back on Mars with a strong has dissipated Mark sluggishly regains consciousness. His first concern is that there is a piece of metal that has penetrated his suit, stabbing him in the abdomen. Thankfully the compressive effect of the metal managed to keep his suit from decompressing. Watney was able to make it over to the habitat module commonly referred to simply as Hab. Once there he manages to divest himself of the outer shell of his suit and cut the inner garment off of himself. This is one of the scenes are done in such a realistic way that you immediately sympathize with the character. You can almost feel the pain as he pulls a piece of metal from his flesh and has to staple the wound together. They go to the rather sizable list of ways he could die. These run the gamut from running out of the air, water, or food there was just limited supplies available to him and although it was meant to sustain six people for a period just over two months even with rationing for offshore estimated four years it would take for a rescue mission to arrive. As Mark mentioned in the camera video diary, there is a single moment that demonstrates such craftsmanship that it showcases the range of Matt Damon’s talent. He looks straight into the camera and announces steadfast conviction "I will not die."

Shortly after this point, there is a three-way split in the narrative of the story. The main storyline naturally follows Watney as he identifies each obstacle to his survival and works out a solution ultimately implementing it. The second is back on earth finds out that Watney has survived rather inconveniently after the just had memorial service for him that was watched by the entire world. The third major storyline features the returning crew of the Ares III. Besides Commander Lewis, the remaining crew consisted of Systems Operator, Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Major Rick Martinez (Michael Peña) and Dr. Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie). The Navigator and chemist Saunders refused to inform the crew of Ares III of Watney’s survival fearing that it might distract them from the only thing that was important to them; returning to earth. When they finally did find out that their friend teammate survived a complicated set of emotions swept over the crew. Understandably There was a mixture of joy and relief which combined the stress of mission control not informing them sooner. Lewis had to deal with the nagging sense of guilt over the decision. Back on Mars, the only thing that Watney blamed Lewis for was a taste in music. She was the only one who brought along recordings in her personal effects and much to Watney’s disagreement it was all disco music.

Those of us having grown up in the early days of NASA we viewed astronauts as not only brave and dedicated but above all highly resourceful. These are the qualities that drive the character of Mark Watney and much to his credit Matt Damon and body that rolled in such an ideal fashion that there is not a moment of his appearance on screen that you doubt him as being that character. He handles the difficulty in sort of a ‘MacGyver in space’ attitude. He realized he would have to grow food but that he was also a trained botanist. Remembering there was some fresh potatoes vacuum packed for Thanksgiving Day he decided to open them up and use them to propagate more food. He turned the lifeless red sand of Mars into fertile soil by mixing it with ample portions of water in the fecal waste of his crewmates. Even obtaining border provided a challenge since she had to burn the abundant supply of hydrogen and the fuel tanks but since NASA has the safety thing about fires everything on board is inflammable. Once again, his results from his triumphs and he survives.

In a lesser film the actual rescue would become anticlimactic, but here the three most important threads are evolving so beautifully together that the resulting story is vibrant and exciting plenty of tense, dramatic moments mixed with the ideal amount of levity. A favorite moment in the theaters for people watching the film’s been Watney travels to the site of the Pathfinder Probe from 1997. Although it had primitive telemetry can only transmit still photos he was able to work out a means of communication with mission control. The unsung heroes of this movie all those people back on the ground had to be just as resourceful as Watney able to think out-of-the-box and anticipate his needs and reactions. The first sign that Watney was alive was noticed by one of the analysts, Mindy Park played by upcoming actress Mackenzie Davis. She is currently in the public eye and the series ‘Halt and Catch Fire’.

The cinematography in this movie is incredible. And it is one of the few films that employers the illusion of depth where the director knows how to use 3-D as an integral part of telling a story and not some gimmick. In the scene where the crew was escaping from the dust storm to a tubular airlock, the cinematography and 3-D effects are exceptional. The sense of dangerous ideally heightened has from the audience is viewpoint be conceded the dust flowing over their bodies directly towards our vantage point. For me, the hallmark of great three-dimensional views is that it becomes so part of the story that you ceased to realize it as a separate technique. In this film the 3-D effects are so seamlessly infused in each scene that you just accept them as natural, inexorably pulling you into the scene. This movie goes beyond his genre and cannot be considered just another sci-fi film revolving around survival set in outer space. It is simply, put one of the greater moments in the use of cinema as a means of artistic expression.

Posted 01/01/2016        01/08/2017

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