M.R. Turnage’s review published on Letterboxd:
Starting with the obvious - this is a really great movie with mass appeal. It is an exciting crowd-pleaser with excitement and emotional stakes. It is well-crafted with beautiful images and engaging performances. It seems like it is striking a chord with the mass audience as well, people are watching it and enjoying it.
For those of us who like to armchair psychoanalyze directors, this seems like the second of a one-two punch from Ridley Scott after the death of his brother, where he processes his mourning by focusing on man's purpose in the universe. While "Exodus: Gods and Kings" looks at man's purpose in the universe through a religious context, "The Martian" looks man's purpose through the lens of science. At one point Matt Damon says, "I want to die knowing I was part of something bigger than myself."
And by dying for something bigger, he is referring to the laws of physics. Science goes past national boundaries, politics, ethnic and gender differences. As depicted in the film, science and rational thought are great global adhesives, bringing disparate people together and binding them with duct tape.
This is an idealistic movie with an idealistic message. It is enjoyable and inspirational, and I am sure it will greatly impact a certain stripe of the population. I am thinking specifically of Powell and Pressburger who with "The Red Shoes" expressed similar thoughts about sacrificing one's life for art, and subsequently inspired a generation of artists. We are at a point in our culture where dying for art doesn't seem as important as dying for science. This film has the potential to be the Red Shoes for future botanists and electrical engineers.
One minor quibble, though. I find it very interesting that the film chooses to represent our common humanity by depicting large swaths of people in public places watching the events as a singular audience instead of showing families in homes or individuals live streaming on their handheld devices. By unifying the world, the non-scientists have become a giant, faceless mass, watching with wonder and awe. No matter how advanced science takes us, we still single out the rock stars and professional athletes, while lumping together everyone else behind them on a bell curve. If I were to change one thing about the messages of the film it would be this - every life matters. Not just Matt Damon's.