All is well on the mission of the Ares 3. The manned mission to Mars, is on time and on schedule; nearing the end of their trip to the red planet. After a disastrous windstorm threatens the safety of the crew, the order is given to abort mission and return to the Hermes spacecraft, then Earth. During the evacuation Botanist and mechanical engineer Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by flying debris and separated from the crew. During the height of the storm, Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) presumes that Watney perished in the storm and evacuated the planet safely.
Back on Earth, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), Director of NASA and his Press Secretary Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig) are navigating the media scrutiny of Watney’s death. The loss of an American astronaut would cause irrevocable damage to the space program, if the media spin were mismanaged. The next move for NASA could be to go to the base on Mars and bring Watney’s body home. Even in space, no man gets left. But on a random search of the Martian lab, impossible signs of movement are found. While the grief stricken crew shuttles to the Hermes while on the surface, Mark Watney is alive. Alone and incapable of reaching Earth via radio, due to the communications antenna’s destruction; Watney must find a way to survive on a sterile, inhospitable terrain with help at least 33 million miles away.
Advertised as a cross between ‘Castaway’ and ‘Apollo 13’, The Martian is an engrossing, thrilling adventure that’s as funny at times as it is suspenseful. The story is driven by Damon’s narrative to his video journal then, bouncing back and forth between Mars and the rescue effort; but I never got the ice cream headache that I got from ‘Interstellar’. Expect copious amounts of science jargon and tense brainstorming sessions, solving a succession of smaller problem to lead to a larger solution. But unlike ‘Interstellar’, The Martian starts as light-hearted film and doesn’t lose focus of that tone. Jeff Daniels is particularly great as the beleaguered director. Stoic, like a ship’s Captain, but as shrewd as a businessman; Daniels’ is unflappable under pressure, even when the world questions his motives.
I generally stay far away from movies about space. I don’t like the technical jargon, only used to feign legitimacy and I don’t like how a simple oversight causes a catastrophe. Much like ‘Gravity’ and ‘Apollo 13’, The Martian is a survival story that just happens to be set outside of Earth. A simple premise that doesn’t require a degree in astrophysics to understand, nor does it insult your intelligence in trying to appeal to the layman.
Rated: PG-13 @ 141 mins
NOTE: In 3D and D-BOX Where Available