The Martian ★★★★

A funny and wildly pleasing sci fi survival procedural. There are only two times in the film where Mark Watney shows any strong emotion- an angry outburst after a bad accident and a rush of fear driven tears when he has to give up control for the first time in the movie. Otherwise, Matt Damon as Watney is in total command. And the rest of the film is purely about how he's going to make it through the wait alive.

The only really despondent people we see are back on earth. Watney has no time to be despondent, for if he does he will die- and so the movie is absolutely NOT about the psychology of survival, or even Watney's psychology at all. And that's a strength, not a weakness. It's about solving a problem, and solving the next one, and solving the next one. And no one seems to be throwing a panic attack when they hit a wall. If they panic, they won't be able to solve the problem. They just back up, take a look and see if there's a way around it. They usually find out that there is.

The Martian juggles tones you would think would be conflicting and finds a surprising sweet spot by keeping everything dry. The situation is so insane that gallows humor is the only option, really. The song choices in particular are a hilarious gag- with only a CD of disco music left behind, it's all he has to listen to and therefore the only real soundtrack we have (except for the obligatory "Starman" montage). I think the moment I got where the movie was trying to hit was the scene where Watney chugs a grape juice, finishes, and says "Fuck You Mars." I was like, oh, this is where we're going with this. In some ways, this movie is like the opposite of Interstellar.

Drew Goddard's writing voice is clearly heard throughout. Like in Cabin In The Woods, he loves the highly intellectual and nerdy meets Salt of the earth.

What a first rate cast. Everyone has an arc, everyone has something to do. Everyone has a goal and we know what will happen to them if they don't reach it. And almost no one has a backstory, because who needs one?

It's a delight to see Ridley Scott make a good film again. I think he's a very competent and excellent filmmaker, he just needs to surround himself with the right people.

Andy liked this review