From visionary director Ridley Scott - Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Gladiator (2000), and Prometheus (2012), comes the latest in the Astronaut in jeopardy genre that’s lately been gaining velocity, The Martian.
Realistic space exploration films featuring isolated astronauts in life threatening situations have been around for years but were always considered to be cerebral speculative procedurals, of interest only to the hard-core Sci-fi fans. But with the success of films like Apollo 13 (1995) Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) with their visually innovative spectacular images, and suspenseful scientifically accurate stories, astronaut films have become much more entertaining and popular.
A bold blend of Apollo 13 (1995) and Cast Away (2000), The Martian follows Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a stranded astronaut on an uninhabited planet Mars, some 401 million kilometers from earth, trying to survive long enough using only his wits and his considerable science knowledge, until he can find a way to communicate with NASA and come up with a plan to get home.
Mark is presumed dead during the evacuation of their Ares III site after a storm forced the crew to abort their mission and return home. When Mark discovers he is not dead, he quickly realizes that even if his crew and NASA knew he was alive, it would take four years for another mission to reach him, by which time he would have surely starved to death - assuming that he doesn’t die by any number of grisly means that could expose him to the hostile Martian environment and kill him instantly.
The Martian puts the science back into Sci-fi. It’s all about the science of surviving in space and the suspense of living in a place where small miscalculations can result in catastrophic accidents. We are constantly reminded that doing the math right can save your life. But above and beyond the math and science, you still need the courage and conviction to take risks.
Mark is seriously in danger of dying the longer he stays on Mars, but he has a healthy sense of humor which helps him get through some of his most difficult ordeals and keeps us interested in him and his predicament. As the obstacles mount his chances of survival quickly diminish. Not only is his food supply running out but he has to make his own water and oxygen, which are all in limited supply.
Based on the novel by Andy Weir, which started as a self-published e-novel, The Martian is quite a complex technical read, presumably limiting its audience to the hard-core Sci-fi fans. But the humanity of the story and characters is so compelling, it actually reached a far wider readership than anticipated and was eventually bought by a publisher and picked up for adaptation into a major Hollywood film.
This film has it all; a risky complex mission to Mars in jeopardy, space travel, science, suspense, a great ensemble cast of actors and a brilliant director at the helm, all coming together to give heart to this triumphant epic story of survival that’s inspirational and educational.
If you choose to see The Martian on a big screen in 3D, prepare to be blown away.