The Martian ★★★½

I should lay out some of my biases up front. I love heady films. I tend to find more to connect with in movies that explore characters' inner worlds. If a film plays out some crisis, some frictions in identity, makes some observations about geo-political relationships through a family dynamic perhaps; I'm all in. Those are the types of films I usually find interesting, worth thinking and writing about.

The Martian had little to none of these qualities. For a man stranded on another planet, facing almost certain death, or years of loneliness at best, Mark Watney seemed to suffer little to no emotional trauma. For all the difficult relationships China and the US have politically, none of it seemed to matter (beyond a quick scene among Chinese scientists agreeing to skirt their government) when it came to collaboration between space agencies to rescue Watney.

But all of those things are beside the point. The Martian is a clear and unequivocal celebration. It is a fun to watch, it looked like it was fun to make, and I think it'll be fun to come back to. Big chunks of the movie are basically the scenes with Gary Sinese and Clint Howard from Apollo 13 (some of the best parts of Apollo 13). In a landscape of sequels, derivatives, and uninspiring blockbusters, The Martian is a fresh, creative new voice. Sometimes, all you want from a film is to have fun. This film is fun without being dumb or appealing to lesser instincts.