Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Martian

The Gist: Mark Watney is mistakenly left for dead on Mars when a deadly storm forces his crew members to abort their mission and blast off the planet in an emergency. Determined not to die on the red planet, he will have to figure out how to survive with limited resources and all on his own.

The Martian is a movie I had been longing to see ever since its release. It's my favorite genre, I like Matt Damon, the director is Ridley Scott, a fairly sure bet of good quality filmmaking, and the reception from both critics and audience was extremely positive.

The movie is, in a word, spectacular. The visual effects are awesome, the direction and acting are great, and the almost constant action and suspense keep the viewer engaged the whole time, but it's the story itself that really makes this movie great.

Mark Watney is a three-dimensional character who comes across as very relatable. Damon does a great job of making us feel Watney's dilemmas, uncertainties, fears, frustrations, hopes, and struggles.

This is a character for whom one cannot but root. While I wondered the whole time whether Scott went for the typical Hollywood finale or a more heartwrenching one, the movie is so well constructed, one can only be happy for how it turns out in the end.

As an aside, now that I've seen the movie, I can finally knowledgeably comment on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's decision to nominate The Martian as a comedy rather than a drama. At the time of my Golden Globes post, I posited that the HFPA evidently loved Scott's movie, but they also turned out to really, really like The Revenant, and they were faced with the dilemma of having to pick one. Ultimately, like a spoiled child who will not be denied, they simply decided to consider Scott's movie as a comedy rather than the drama it clearly is, so that they could reward both The Martian and The Revenant. What a travesty.

As I said a few weeks ago, I was quite confident that The Martian could not possibly be considered a comedy, and I was right. This is most definitely a sci-fi drama. Sure, it has a few funny jokes cracked in, but it's unmistakably not a comedy. So my condemnation of the HFPA stands. They had the honor and the duty to pick a drama and a comedy and chose instead to pick two dramas and call one of them a comedy. So disappointing and wrongheaded.

The Bottom Line: I don't give out 10s lightly (the last time was in 2013 for Argo), but The Martian totally deserves it. It's a fantastic tale about the power of the human spirit when it's faced with adversity, perfectly constructed, directed, and acted. A marvel.

Grade: 10

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