Saturday movie review: The Martian

When I first saw previews for THE MARTIAN starring Matt Damon, I thought, Meh... seems just like GRAVITY.

THE MARTIAN isn't just like GRAVITY, but it is very much like it. An astronaut gets lost in space and fellow astronauts do their darnedest to save him or her. Only in THE MARTIAN, Matt Damon is stuck on Mars instead of floating about far off in space as Sandra Bullock did in GRAVITY.


That said, though, THE MARTIAN, based on the novel by Andy Weir, is light years ahead of GRAVITY in plausible storyline and entertainment value. I liked GRAVITY better than I expected, but I liked THE MARTIAN even more. Which was also unexpected (mostly because I'm just not really a big science fiction fan).

In THE MARTIAN, Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney, who — right off the bat — is left for dead on Mars by his crew and commander (Jessica Chastain) when a storm wreaks havoc during a mission. Brainy botanist Watney jumps into action right away figuring out how to survive on the desolate planet rather than accept his dismal fate, at least until he manages contact with NASA to let them know he's stranded and needs a return mission to rescue him from certain death.


Being a Ridley Scott film, THE MARTIAN is intense, with incredible cinematography and characters who don't shy away from taking dangerous action despite dismal odds — especially when it's a buddy's life on the line. The wanna-be heroes of THE MARTIAN are Chastain as the mission commander (yes, a hero despite having left a crew member on Mars) along with crew members played by Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Aksel Hennie, and Sebastian Stan, all who are spiraling back to Earth as Damon's survival becomes less likely. On Earth, Chiwetel Eijifor and Sean Bean do battle with Jeff Daniels (the head of NASA) who wants primarily to do what looks good to the public — which isn't necessarily what's right.

A surprise as far as casting was Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, the PR woman managing what gets out to the public. She played the part rather laid back and, well, normal. Another instance of Wiig successfully playing straight. I like her that way much more than as a goofball.

The film belongs to Damon, naturally. His performance was funny and touching, engaging and inspiring. And it won him a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar nomination. His persistence despite the odds made me wonder if I'd try as hard as he did (even though I surely would never have gone off to Mars in the first place). One bit of his performance and the screenplay that disappointed me a bit: I thought for sure Damon would disco dance at one point, which I was quite looking forward to. (You'll have to watch the movie to see what I mean.)

Here, cast members from THE MARTIAN pose questions to real astronauts:

THE MARTIAN (rated PG-13 "for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity") was nominated for a slew of awards and has won many already, including best acting and best picture prizes. The film opened in theaters last fall and is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and more. Find out more on the film's official website.

Disclosure: I watched this film free, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment; opinions are my own.