Director Ridley Scott and actor Matt Damon bless audiences with a film that has it all: breathtaking, mystical planet Mars; there is something positively spiritual about the otherworldly landscape; compelling, futuristic scientific strategies; actors trained (similar to Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”) to maneuver corridors of the gliding spaceship, “Hermes” (the Greek god of of the underworld, a messenger); a script informed with levity, intelligence, humor and bona fide sincerity; characters you’d love to have as dinner companions, regardless of their taste in music.
Damon, as astronaut “Mark Watney” is at his personal best; stranded, presumed dead by his commander “Melissa Lewis” (another intense role for Jessica Chastain); he relies on his skills as a botanist and mechanical engineer to navigate, cultivate, and “settle” the uninhabitable; his videoed, piloted progress is self-deprecating, infused with irony, wisecracks, totally lacking in gushy sentimentality.
“The Martian” eliminates the claustrophobia manifested in “Gravity”; focusing on three venues: Watney’s sojourn on the lonely planet; NASA and its officials (provocative portrayals by Jeff Daniels, (the Head); Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean as Mars mission directors; Donald Glover (no relation to Danny Glover) is formidable as the quirky astrodynamicist who develops the “slingshot trajectory” a breakthrough (along with Chinese technology) to rescue NASA’s man on Mars; the crew on the spaceship must unanimously agree to an unsanctioned, fuel-threatened mission to save their friend. A trinity worthy of novelist Andy Weir’s 2011 bestseller “The Martian”.
There is something softer, gentler about “The Martian” differentiating it from other science fiction films; intimacy, accessibility; their personalities transcend their capabilities. Mark Watney, his ingenuity, intransigence in refusing to succumb to numbing odds, undoubtedly, is the most likeable astronaut we’ve encountered trolling the galaxies; not a Martian, just a “super” man.