The Martian (2015)

There was no way this could get a stellar review. This movie had two things going against it. One: I read the book, and there is no chance the movie could cover half of the stuff that the book covered. Two: R.C. Bray did the voice for the audiobook, and he can act more with his voice than Matt Damon can act with his whole body. However, the movie deserves a fair shot.

What this movie needs is more math. I can understand the reluctance to inundate the audience with complex problems and raw numbers, and the book was a little intimidating at first with how much simple math is had at the beginning, but once you start rolling, you learn to love the math and it adds to the complexity of the story and the urgency of the terrible things that befall our hero.

So, Matt gets stranded on Mars after a sandstorm that threatens to kill the whole team. They think he's dead, so they take off in the nick of time. He is, in fact, not dead, so he sets about making sure that he doesn't die stranded alone on a dead planet with no planned mission for the next four years. The environment is cold and brutal, the air is thin and without oxygen, no food grows anywhere, and he doesn't have enough of anything (including power) to last as long as he needs.

This setup is excellent, and Andy Weir wrote a complex and impressively detailed book in which Matt's character has to overcome setback after setback to try and get home, and his dauntless and sarcastic attitude is endearing and relatable in a way that Matt doesn't convey. Again, I'm doing the movie a disservice by comparing it to the book, and I know it. This is a very good movie, and it has some great special effects and the real trick was to get the pacing right. Nevertheless, I found myself looking forward to things that never happened. They just didn't have the time to make all of the bad things happen to him that were in the book, but the left out some real whoppers.

The problems that he encountered in the movie aren't necessarily well explained, either, and his solution to them is equally shallow. At one point, he is mixing the frozen waste from the other astronauts so he can cultivate his potato crops, and I'm not sure that anyone who didn't know the source material would have really understood what he was doing. It was a bit of a frustrating experience to know more about what was happening than the movie would even allow you to know. I mean, he pulls out the drill to drill all the holes in the rover and ... and ... nope. No near disaster involving shorting out of anything.

The people back on Earth, headed by Jeff Daniels, struggle to figure out how to get him to live while also coordinating a plan to rescue him. Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted, "Evidence that the @MartianMovie is fantasy: All who make important decisions are scientifically literate." Politics is kept at a distance for most of the movie, but there are real decisions to be made weighing the consequences of the various options.

Direction is very good
Editing is good
Effects are excellent
Story is fantastic
Dialogue could have used more from the book.

Bottom Line: Fact is, this is a good movie, and you should see it. Then, go get the audiobook and give it a listen to see what you missed.

3.75/5

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