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The Story of a Martian who's Not Marvin

                Wow! Matt Damon’s character from Interstellar got his own spin-off!
                The Martian is based on the book by Andy Weir and directed by Ridley Scott best known for directing such classics as Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator. Then he decided to take a fifteen year break from directing classics. Thankfully he’s still got it, as this film is absolutely tremendous!
                The story is about a manned expedition to Mars which is cut short by a monstrous storm. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and most of the crew (Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie) manage to escape quickly but are forced to leave their botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) when he is presumed dead. However he actually survived and is forced to use his smarts, skills as a botanist, and determination to keep himself alive on the lone planet. On Earth NASA finds out he’s alive and led by chairman Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Mars Mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) they launch an attempt to rescue him.
                The detail on this film is amazing! Everything from the technology, to the science, it all looks and feels so genuine. You truly believe Watney’s a real astronaut operating in real conditions. Even the video logs he records have a naturalness to them. Especially in how Watney explains the science he’s using in a very logical and relatable way. There are times when the film legitimately feels like a biopic before you remember no one has been to Mars yet. But the film so completely immerses you in its story and setting. The cinematography is also fantastic with sweeping shots of Mars that are rendered so well; it’s near perfect CGI, mimicking what we know the Martian landscape looks like.
The Martian himself is terrific as well. Matt Damon is likable and captivating as the man alone on a desolate planet trying to survive and keep himself sane. He can be light-hearted when he needs to be, and really intense or frustrated (this film does still remind us that anything off-earth constantly wants to kill us) when he needs to as well. The supporting cast on Earth is really good too. In addition to those already mentioned the film also features Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, and Community’s Donald Glover. They’re all great but the ones that stand out to me are Ejiofor (clearly one of the best actors working today) and Wiig who surprisingly embodies her character so well you forget that it’s “that woman from Bridesmaids”.
But even that wasn’t as surprising as the comic relief this film pulled off. While it does get a little predictably quippy, there are some bits that are really funny. Like a scene out of nowhere where Watney almost blows himself up. All of his logs are light-hearted too and there are a couple good jokes such as him being constantly tormented by Lewis’ leftover disco music. Speaking of which, the music also enlivens these light-hearted sequences with a pretty fun soundtrack. As if Chris Hadfield bringing it back wasn’t enough, we get to hear David Bowie’s “Starman” as Watney roams around Mars. These moments of levity really offset the dramatic nature of the premise, and even though we can see the conclusion, we root for it all the same.
The Martian is truly an astounding film that basks in the determination of the human spirit. And in so doing, it’s a really feel-good film in spite of the needed moments of tension! Ridley Scott really is at his best working in a sci-fi setting and to have him back at the helm of a future classic is very welcoming indeed!

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