140 million miles knows no bounds for humanity in this homesick space adventure.—4.5 Stars
Review of The Martian, Matt Damon’s latest Sci-Fi adventure that will remind just how important ‘Home’ is.
“Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do”. – Mark Watney, The Martian
Gaining notoriety for its feel good nature; challenging the dystopian downturn of humanity often portrayed in science fiction film, The Martian is a welcome change to Matt Damon’s typical dealings with Sci-fi.
As Elysium (2013) – starring Damon – followed the dystopian trope of a commodified humanity; segregated for the privileged only, the Martian is the second popular movie in recent years, to romanticise and celebrate, the notion of ‘home’ in science fiction film. It also unites us with the notion of humanity as universal. The first film to do so as of late, was Gravity (2013), but is less of a contender to The Martian; which is considerably more celebratory in the emphasis put on home, in its use of comedy.
A bit surprised at its comedy nomination, and subsequent win, at the golden globes; over other categories, a level of drama encompasses the movie, within the empathy it evokes.
Fortunately, the film is earning rightful recognition with a best motion picture nomination at this year’s academy awards.
The film opens to the space crew of the Ares 3, rushing to leave Mars when their mission takes a dangerous turn during a violent storm. In their escape, it appears that crew member; Mark Watney – played by Damon – is mortally wounded and left behind. When Watney awakes, some hours later; alone, the mission to survive on Mars until the next crew arrive in four years begins.
Back on Earth, NASA discovers that Watney is still alive; through satellite imaging, and begin to communicate a rescue mission between Watney and the world.
Forgoing integral protocols, Nasa liaises with China to achieve a successful plan to save Watney. To their disadvantage, the forgoing of protocols; in order to help Watney survive on Mars for four years, dooms the mission as unsuccessful.
Unable to figure out a way to save Watney; whose success in colonising Mars has since been destroyed, time appears to be running out for our now-emaciated Martian. Unable to survive much longer, Rich Purnell; played by Donald Glover, a young and enigmatic scientist, encourages a plan to reroute Watney’s crew back to Mars to save him. Sacrificing their personal lives on Earth, the Crew wholeheartedly agree to risk their own lives to save him.
Unlike the much-told narrative of a rescue mission, the comedy within The Martian elevates the notion of Castaway in space; to tell the incredible story, that human love knows no bounds.
As we are shown the survival of one man; left stranded on mars, we also see the transcendence of humanity; that has often found dystopian portrayal as a result of reality’s zeitgeist. The Martian downplays the cynicism of war, and the critique of human rights, to offer us a narrative that could be considered utopian in its outcome.
As most movies struggle to achieve, The Martian sadly underwhelms with its conclusion.
Celebrating alongside the fictional crowds within the movie; who gather in their capitals to welcome Watney home; it is disheartening to see that as his comrades have coupled off, Damon seems solitary once more. A focus is instead, put on his role as an academic.
Aside from hoping these heroes reunite often; akin to the idea of maintaining a certain level of idealism; and staving off the dissolution of unity that the film greatly evokes, the relationship between Watney and his Commander; Melissa Lewis, sought to spark a need to see Damon involved with the bare premise of humanity – love.
Hoping the character has found love outside of the film’s main narrative, it is the only downside to an otherwise heartwarming movie, that is hard to beat…until next year’s Oscar season that is.
The Martian leaves us grasping onto humanity; as we return to our war-ridden newsreels of reality, as the credits appear on-screen.
The Martian is available to buy or rent, on DVD, Blu-ray + Digital HD now!
[Featured Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Source Content for Gifs: The Martian’, 20th Century Fox, 2015]