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the martian

Review: The Martian

Ros Hull

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew…

But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. IMDb

My favourite line in this film is:

“I am going to have to science the sh*t out of this.”

In a nutshell, that is why The Martian works. The science seems plausible – working problems and developing complex calculations actually feel like work, like they take time and a lot of effort, not just tossing a Coke can over one’s shoulder and deriving enough inspiration to hack an alien computer from there.

It is also hugely entertaining, taking the audience from the edge of their seats to laidback chuckles and back again.

It’s about damned time, Sir Ridley.

Ridley Scott’s directorial career has been an alarmingly regular series of ups and downs – however, the overblown, over-analysed missteps have dominated in the past few years. Yes, I know all directors have rough patches but this is the man who shaped dystopian cinema with Blade Runner. He re-invented the buddy/anti-hero movie with Thelma and Louise, the military mission move with Black Hawk Down and scarred me for life with Alien. He should never misstep.

PS – best (seriously, the best) female action hero, the benchmark on which all others are measured…Ripley (just sayin’).

I actually had low expectations going into The Martian so I was not only hugely entertained and completely absorbed in the story, I was also silently cheering my head off that one of my idols had (finally) lifted his game.

This film is great and there are so many reasons why it works.

Firstly, and even chiefly, Matt Damon’s ‘everyman’ charm works fabulously well. For the bulk of the movie he talks to a video diary, with no one responding, yet he takes the audience with him, through humour, despair and loneliness and involves us in his solo survival. I could not look at a potato when I got home – but found myself chatting to mirrors as I passed them.

Secondly, the supporting cast is unbelievable and really very good. Everyone works together like a team, not upstaging but supporting each other. Their story arcs interweave and rise into focus at key points but all make way for that solo star turn on the planet Mars.

Kind of like a mission team now I think about it. Sean Bean is in the cast too and (spoiler alert) he doesn’t die!

The sets are ridiculously well detailed and the landscape is awe-inspiring. The stunt work, including moving from zero to artificial gravity are all just so well done.

The direction is tight, professional and – oh so different to Prometheus! Watching that film I felt like any and all life had been rehearsed out of everyone’s performances. In this film, it feels like such a light, deft touch has been used. It is all just so brilliantly well paced too.

I also enjoyed the sciencey breadth and depth of the story. Andy Weir, author of the book it is based on, only made one key error about the ferocity of the storms on the planet (apparently I blow out birthday candles with more force). However, for the way the story unfolds, the way solutions are mooted, tested and tried I absolutely applaud him.

The director (Sir Ridley) only made one mistake – the way the humans move on Mars, given that it only has about 6% of Earth’s gravity.

However, the mass of objects wouldn’t change so there would need to be an equation that counteracted mass with lack of force and lack of atmosphere, factoring in the whatever, whatever … and until someone really walks on Mars we won’t have a true indication. For the sake of a film the audience can follow, Earth gravity works.

So ignore the naysayers and do yourself a favour – enjoy the best space movie is years!

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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