by Billie Doux
While I was moving three thousand miles from one side of the United States to the other last year, I discovered a novel called The Martian and read it on my Kindle at night in our motel room. I had to review it. It was one of the best novels I'd read in years. It's that good.
And now I feel the same way about the movie.
The Martian, book and movie, is about an astronaut named Mark Watney who is presumed dead during the U.S.'s third Mars mission and is left behind alone, with a habitat and a limited amount of food that won't keep him alive anywhere near long enough for rescue. Watney, a botanist, throws himself into working the survival problem with McGyver-like ingenuity and a wonderful sense of humor.
This movie is as good as it can possibly be, reminding me of excellent and realistic space films like Apollo 13 and Gravity. The visuals are so believable that it feels like Ridley Scott went out and shot this movie on Mars, but the story of Watney's plight is always front and center.
Scott not only hired a bunch of excellent actors, he gave them a whole lot of wonderful stuff to do. I've never been much of a fan of Matt Damon, but he was terrific, much better in the lead role than I expected. Nearly every supporting character had a chance to shine, too. I especially enjoyed Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor as NASA guys, as well as the entire crew of the Hermes. And how clever that we first get to know the Hermes crew when Watney uses their personal things left behind in the habitat. Especially Captain Lewis' disco collection.
One of the best things about Apollo 13 was the parallel scenes of the flight crew and the ground crew determinedly working one problem after another; The Martian does much the same thing with much different problems. This movie champions the power of science and human ingenuity, as well as the extreme limits of what you can do with duct tape. But even though The Martian spoke to the geek in me in a great big way, I think nearly everyone would enjoy this movie. It's about strength and courage, the human spirit, the emotional cost of extreme isolation. And it was much less of a nerdfest than the book, although that's not a fault. Moving a first person stream of consciousness narrative to the screen isn't as easy as one might think, and the few changes that Ridley Scott made to Andy Weir's book were appropriate in order to translate the story to another medium.
One more thing. If you're a fan of the TV show Community, Donald Glover has a small but crucial role as a lower level brilliant NASA geek who comes up with a special solution to a particular problem and demonstrates it to the head of NASA (Jeff Daniels) with a stapler. Very funny. I also particularly loved the meta Lord of the Rings joke, the ABBA album, the use of David Bowie's song 'Starman', and the ketchup. And the Iron Man joke. Loved the Iron Man joke.
So I guess what I'm saying is, don't miss this one. Go see this movie. It's terrific.
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.