Meant to write about this one when I saw it opening weekend, but life, as usual, has been keeping me rather busy. I’ll start off by saying that this movie fixed a lot of the problems I had with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s Gravity (2013). The result? I didn’t feel like I was spending an eternity in the theater and I wasn’t tempted to check the time every five minutes.
Funny story, I have been living under a bit of a rock lately with how busy things have been, so while I did hear there was a bit of buzz happening about this movie, this was one of those times where I wasn’t really looking too much into it. I mostly went to have something fun to do with a good friend and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Thankfully I wasn’t.
For those curious what I felt like The Martian did right as opposed to Gravity, there were a few key points. The first was that the set did not feel as closed. Both films are set in space; both have main characters going through a crisis, mostly in solitude. Matt Damon’s character, however, seemed a lot more fleshed out than Bullock’s. My main problem with Gravity was although the main character’s panic makes total sense and is believable based on the situation she was in, I didn’t feel like there was much substance in the story to make me feel really invested in the character. Damon’s botanist character, on the other hand, had a lot of layers to him that gradually got revealed as the story went on, which I appreciated. I’m no science expert, so I cannot attest to the accuracy of the science. What I can say is that based on the way it was presented though, some of it seemed perfectly plausible while other times it seemed like it could be a bit of a stretch.
Damon was perfect in the role. I haven’t seen the script or read the novel by Andy Weir, so I don’t know if his character was always sarcastic, but regardless of whether or not that was his own personal touch, I appreciated the sarcastic humor of the stranded botanist.
As for the secondary characters, their development was a little weak here. While they were more fleshed out than the supporting characters in Gravity, I think it could have been interesting to see a bit more of Damon’s character’s crew mates, though at the same time I suppose it makes sense that not a lot of time was spent on them, since the story was really mostly about Damon’s character and his efforts to stay alive.
I have a few mixed feelings about the casting, like how Mindy Park (a very Korean-sounding name) was played by a white actress, and the character of Vincent Kapoor, while played by a minority, was not played by an Indian actor. While I’m not sure I agree with either of these moves (I forgave Aloha (2015) because Allison Ng is only a quarter Hawaiian, and without knowing what the real Allison Ng looks like, I can believe the possibility that she might not look very Asian at all), at the same time, it’s not like no minority actors were cast. There were two supporting scientist roles that were filled by minorities, and I feel that they got a fair amount of screen time for the roles they were given to play.
A thought that did cross my mind as I was watching was that with recent talks about potentially sending people to Mars (Sources: CNN – 2013 | TIME – 2014 | USA TODAY – 2015), and knowing that there are no plans to bring said pioneers back to Earth down the road, it made me wonder if those who have signed up for the program or are considering signing up for something similar in the future would still want to go through with it after seeing a movie like this one. I suppose though, daring souls still might, despite the conditions they would face.
Final Thoughts: I was thoroughly entertained by this movie, and I think Damon’s sarcastic humor had a lot to do with it. I think this is also a movie I wouldn’t mind watching again. If this is still showing in a theater by you, I’d recommend going. As for whether or not I’d purchase it for the permanent collection, however, probably not, but that’s because I mostly tend to buy movies and TV series of the superhero, fantasy, or indie genre (like X-Men, Avengers, Captain America, Inception, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, etc.), since I never get sick of watching those over again.