Movie Review: The Martian, 2015

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Having had a couple of weeks to reflect on this before writing my review has helped me put The Martian into perspective a bit. Which is to say, I went from really enjoying this movie to really loving this movie. It’s the least cynical film I’ve seen in years, it’s funnier than half the comedies that come out each year, it is truly thrilling in both big ways and small, and it seems like the kind of thing that could inspire a kid to do something great. This an astounding work of hope, about the persevering nature of the human spirit, and what we’re capable of achieving in the face of impossible odds.

It’s possible this will become the most important movie released in 2015. What I mean is – in a world where we’re constantly at odds with nature and each other, we need to believe in our ability to overcome problems. People have become so cynical about our hope for a future on this planet that even Disney had to take their tent pole summer movie based on one of their theme park rides and use it as a platform to try and encourage human innovation. The reality is, we’re moving into a future where math and science are becoming increasingly important to day to day life, and more importantly are going to be the most important jobs of the future. It is vital right now that we encourage young people not to give up in the face of the impossible odds we face on this planet, due to any of the potential cataclysms you’d like to list (overpopulation, depleting resources, global warming, etc). They need to believe that we can truly accomplish anything, and that math and science could be our salvation. But with a struggling NASA that can’t justify sending another manned mission somewhere, who will inspire the 10 year olds of today, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did so many years ago?

Ridley Scott is the answer. As is Matt Damon, Andy Weir, Drew Goddard, and the incredible, star-studded cast of The Martian. We can’t send a real mission? Well let’s make one, and let’s use the opportunity to fictionalize the journey to depict the world we want to live in. They turn math and science into action set pieces, they show us true human compassion from men and women in various positions of power, they depict a world that is willing to unite together and share resources and research to solve what is a minute, but ultimately important problem. I truly think this is an important message to share with the world, and especially to share with the next generation of innovators. Because they could be our saviors, but they have to believe they’re capable of such feats first.

I’d like to briefly address The Martian on some technical points before finishing this. It’s a gorgeous movie, so seamlessly put together that I probably wouldn’t say “That’s got Ridley Scott written all over it!” if his name wasn’t written all over it. That’s a huge compliment and something I think only very seasoned directors can accomplish – to have such an assured hand that they disappear completely, with no apparent flourishes anywhere. The cast is absolutely fantastic in this, with not a single person chewing scenery in a movie that is made of nothing but high tension situations. They’re all just selling the humanity of this and it works so, so well. And shit is Matt Damon watchable. I laughed with him, cried with him, felt the intense pressure he was under as well as the pure relief he experiences. He’s just fantastic in this and I can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off.

I have a feeling The Martian is going to make a lot of best of the year lists, mine likely included, and it absolutely deserves it. But more importantly, you owe it to the young people in your life to take them to see this. Inspire them. We could all use some right now, and they might be able to use that inspiration to change the world. It will science the shit out of them, same as it did me.

The Martian scored: ★★★★☆

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