Mark Watney is...Marsgyver

the martian
A new Ridley Scott sci-fi classic!

Ridley Scott’s The Martian is one of the best space sci-fi and/or survival movies ever made. And it also unequivocally proves that all that science, math and algebra I studied back in college, that I thought were just cool to know, WILL EVENTUALLY BE USEFUL MIGHT JUST SAVE MY LIFE.

The Martian, based from Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, is about survival on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and the rest of the crew of the Mars Mission ARIS III are hit by a devastating storm. In an attempt to escape the planet, Mark is struck by debris and separated from the rest of the crew. Believing Mark is dead, the crew has no choice but to take off. But even injured and alone, Mark is far from helpless as he uses whatever materials were left behind, his superior Botany powers and an uncanny ability to stay positive-slash-non-crazy to survive.

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Mark Watney: MARSGYVER!

The Martian is Gravity and Castaway’s picture-perfect lovechild…dipped in slick Heisenberg sauce. (Breaking Bad fans will get it.)

Unlike most man-versus-nature movies that focus on the main character’s perpetually losing physical and psychological struggle, The Martian never lets it get too dark and dreary. Mark Watney’s extraordinary optimism and wit injects a surprising amount of levity to the film. (Not to mention the significant involvement of a colorful set of supporting characters.) This movie was funny. And it’s so refreshing to see that from something that could easily have been utterly heartbreaking.

Mr. Positive!

But that’s not to say you couldn’t feel the stakes. There was a solid amount of suspense and drama to be found here as well. You could feel sheer terror when things don’t go Mark’s way, like when a suit is punctured or something blows up. The harsh and uninhabitable red planet also lends to the audience’s pounding unease. The strong balance between tragedy and hopefulness was one of the reasons I found the film so endearing.

Mars is both terrifying and beautiful, depending on how you look at it.

Watney, at one point, declares, “get to work” and The Martian does just that. Instead of primarily being an introspection of its main character, it also focused on the science /the work /the problem solving. Even when I couldn’t understand all the highfalutin scientific jargon, and even if this movie is set on a future time where technology has somewhat advanced, the principles being used were comfortably accessible. While recording his efforts to survive, Mark makes his problems sound simple and manageable. It was like watching a two hour episode of McGyver in Space. Watney, essentially, McGyvered his way out of dying. YEAH! SCIENCE, B*TCH!

When you're stranded on a harsh, uninhabitable planet...SCIENCE THE SHIT OUT OF IT!

Also, who knew tape could be so useful a survival tool? Time to load up on TAPE!

This movie was so skillfully written. Hats off to novelist Andy Weir and Drew Goddard, who wrote the screen adaptation. Aside from the balance of logic, wit and drama, and the user-friendliness of the science involved, the relatively simple plot of survival was made more intricate by The Martian’s two-pronged story-telling. It wasn’t only about Mark Watney and his exile on Mars, but also NASA, the institution responsible for space travel. The story eventually sees NASA deal with the calculations, the logistics, the financing, the media, and the politics involved in sending a manned mission into space. Seeing the men behind the astronauts not only gave the film more authenticity and grittiness, it also gave the star-studded supporting cast a chance to shine.

Absolutely EVERYONE had a distinct role to play.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every NASA official, every personnel, every crew member on ARES III, basically every character who appeared and had at least one line of dialogue, all left a distinct mark on the overall story. Jeff Daniel’s Teddy Sanders, the Director of NASA, who seemed like the generic calculating, unfeeling bureaucrat at first but will eventually surprise you with his ruthless dedication to saving Mark Watney. Donald Glover felt like he was channeling his Community co-star Danny Pudi when he portrayed the eccentric astrodynamicist, Rich Parnell. Chiwetel Ejiofor's Vincent Kapoor was occasionally torn between saving Watney and agreeing to their Director’s skepticism. You can really see the Mars mission director struggling to make ends meet to save their man. Sean Bean’s Hermes Flight Director Mitch Henderson, Michael Pena’s astronaut Rick Martinez, and Jessica Chastain’s ARES III commander Melissa Lewis, all brought the heart within a movie filled with technicalities. Their bond with Watney is heavily apparent even though you barely see them together on-screen. There’s so much more to love about the supporting characters, but I’ll leave the rest for you to see for yourself.

team NASA
The team trying to bring Mark home.

Troy is Abed in the moooorning.

But of course, the true stand out performance was from Matt Damon. This movie would have fallen apart without him at the core. His character, his monologues were all perfect for an actor of his natural charm. He was smart, sunny, and hilarious in the face of such overwhelming odds. But from time to time, you see intense fear or the depression he keeps under the skin. Not once do you feel bored or uninterested in Mark Watney, Matt Damon keeps you sympathizing and rooting for his character and he carries the weight of this movie on his shoulders with ease.

Matt Damon is the most talented man on Mars!

As I write this review, I am honestly thinking of negative things to say about it, but it is impossible! For all intents and purposes, this movie was perfect! The acting was superb, the writing was brilliant, the tone and pacing were finely tuned, the action and dramatic moments were all too gripping, the cinematography, set and costume designs, and camera work were all artfully done. Hell, even the promos for the movie were done tastefully and lent to the authenticity of the experience. (They even got Neil deGrasse Tyson to make a fictional short documentary about the ARES III mission!) Director Ridley Scott has added another sci-fi classic to his growing repertoire.

The film’s depiction of Mars was at the same time barren and beautiful. It befittingly reflects of how I found the movie as a whole – it can be bleak and deeply terrifying but it also contained surges of profound magnificence. It ascends from merely being a story of survival to an inspiring tale of ingenuity, the unbreakable spirit, and humanity’s collective love for life. The Martian is a spectacle contrasted by intimacy. It’s one of the best sci-fi films this decade and it would be a sin to miss it!

Bring him home.

...TUMATAGINTING NA 10 / 10!!!!! (Fuck yeah, ang ganda!)


*First seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles!

PS! Some trivia about the movie I found super interesting courtesy of IMDB! (SPOILER ALERT!!!)

1) During the closing credits, a Chinese astronaut is shown on a later mission to Mars. This is a nod to a plot point from the novel, not shown in the film, in which the Chinese Space Agency barters to get a Chinese astronaut on the next Mars mission in exchange for the use of their space probe.

- I knew there had to be something in exchange for the Chinese probe.

2) The Hermes docking with the supply rocket was more difficult in the book, than depicted in the movie. In the book, the crew was directed to commit suicide if the resupply mission failed. Except for Johansson, without her knowledge. She was to be the lone survivor, because she was the youngest and had the skills to complete the mission. The Captain calculated that between the remaining food, given only one survivor, and cannibalizing on the dead crew, she could survive all way back home. 



...and finally, about Mark's deliberately omitted message to NASA...

3) When NASA and Watney first establish written communication, Watney drops an F-bomb. He is warned to watch his language because everything he types is being broadcast globally. In the film, his response is not shown, only the reaction of others. 

In the novel, his response is, "Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

- Hah. Classic Watney.
Come to think of it...

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