Damon lands in space flick

By: Kyle Casey, Contributing Writer

The recently released film, “The Martian” takes on the ever-daring movie concept of space and delivers in a way that many of its predecessors failed to do.

Starring Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, the film centers around the Ares III mission on Mars, which takes a turn for the worse as the crew is forced to abort during a storm.

Watney, thought to be dead, survives the storm, but is left stranded on Mars.

The ensuing film is a fast-paced look into Watney’s survival on Mars, and the plans to save him before his food supply depletes. Where director Ridley Scott hits a home run with this concept is that he wastes no time in diving into the whole ordeal.

Minutes into the film, Watney is already stranded on the planet, as Scott avoids any unnecessary buildup to the task at hand.

From there, the film engages with a much more satisfying plot than “Gravity” but one that is more simple and enjoyable to follow than “Interstellar.”

Damon’s performance is humorous and dedicated, although famous lines from the film such as “in your face, Neil Armstrong,” make for tacky scenes in an overall well-written script.

Watney’s survival story is complimented by a well-constructed back-and-forth between Watney and the NASA Space Center in Houston. The pleasing performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor (Venkat Kapoor) and Donald Glover (Rich Purnell) help give the film a generous non-Watney dosage, which is necessary to avoid overload from Watney’s character.

As a whole, much of the film works, and despite its runtime of over two hours, it rarely feels as if it is dragging on.

The alluring views of Mars never get old, and the up-tempo pace of Watney’s time on the planet makes for pleasing cinema.

Damon’s ability to charmingly talk one-on-one with cameras while on Mars keeps the audience involved. It feels as if Damon is talking to the audience, and his witty humor and sarcasm do not disappoint.

With most space films, directors seem to attempt to outkick their coverage, as space is, well, a complicated concept.

But Scott keeps things simple. There are the expected “OK, could that really happen?” instances, but overall, many scenes feel realistic and believable.

There is some disappointing hyperbole, though, as the entire Watney-saving mission is broadcasted around the world, and one scene shows a New Year’s Eve-type scene in Times Square. Having mass crowds emphatically wave American flags over a rescue attempt feels like overkill.

“The Martian” is an engaging film with well-placed humor and stunning scenery.

I give this film 8.25 out of 10 stars.

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