MOVIE MAN

‘The Martian’ says: Pay attention in science class

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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It’s always nice when a good movie follows a bad one.

That’s what’s happened this week: The Martian helped get the poor taste of Hotel Transylvania 2 (Movie Man No. 1169, 3) from the Movie Man’s mouth.

ABOUT THE FILM

“The Martian” went through a release date change, which can often be a red flag.

The movie was originally set to debut Nov. 25 amid the year-end glut. But, seeing how “Gravity” (2013, MM No. 1056, 9, Best of Year), another space film, did so well with its early October release, “The Martian” was moved up.

It was the second move for “The Martian.” Originally, the movie was not supposed to come out until March 2016.

THE PLOT

The crew of the Hermes is working on Mars’ surface when a savage storm suddenly arrives. They try to make it back to the ship, but Mark (Matt Damon) gets hit by debris. The crew, led by Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), reluctantly leaves him behind, assuming he’s dead.

Damon is not. He drags himself back to the shelter, removes a piece of metal that has pierced his gut and takes note of his situation. No rescue mission can reach him for years, so he begins to try and figure out how to live that long.

Fortunately, Damon’s a botanist. He knows how to get water and grow plants. Eventually, he devises a way to contact Earth, and wheels begin turning to try and save him … or should he be saved?

Already proclaimed a dead hero, political wheels begin turning with NASA Director Sanders (Jeff Daniels) making tough, sometimes heartless, decisions, including not telling the crew of the Hermes that Damon is still alive.

When things go awry on Earth and Mars, the crew is finally contacted, and thanks to a wily young astrophysicist, the chance arises to fetch Damon.

WHAT WORKS

Damon is fantastic. While this role has a whiff of “Interstellar” (2014, MM No. 1112, 7) with Damon stranded on a distant planet, he makes this character completely different. With him claiming the biggest chunk of screen time, it’s reminiscent of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” (2000, MM No. 382, 8).

The effects, especially in 3-D, are super. They’re not “Gravity” great, but when the movie finally gets back into outer space, everything is mesmerizing. One shot of the Hermes coming straight at the screen is terrific, and so is the opening storm where massive amounts of small, rocky debris pelt the astronauts and audience.

Also good is Chiwetel Ejofor whose Vincent takes every curve ball thrown at him on Earth and from Damon and figures out a way to handle the situation.

The movie is uplifting – and will be for many young people – who will see that being educated and resilient can really make a difference and maybe even save your life.

BEST SCENE

Damon can contact NASA through typing. When he first discovers that his crew has not been told he’s alive, Damon’s vulgar response shocks all, including the entire world that’s watching his every keystroke live.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

The Earth-bound crew, especially Sean Bean as the project director, is short shrifted for the most part. Even at two hours, 21 minutes, enough screen time can’t be given to everyone.

Chinese help comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really fit, even if it’s necessary to the plot.

The rescue, while possibly actually doable, is pretty goofy and looks even sillier onscreen.

THE RATING

The PG-13 has a pair of f-bombs and a pretty gory – but wonderfully acted – scene with Damon digging a metal shard out of his stomach in up-close-and-personal shots.

SUMMING UP

But despite the language and one gross-out scene, the film is very optimistic and positive, and many science nerds will dig it (even if some of the science is a bit off).

NEXT UP

“Pan”

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