Monday, November 16, 2015

Movie Monday: The Martian

It is rare that my husband and I actually get OUT to the movie theater. Last week was one of those rare events - we took advantage of our local theater's $5 movies all day Tuesday and saw The Martian. We had both read the novel (read my review here) and loved it, so we wanted to be sure to see the space thriller on the big screen.

Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who is left for dead on the surface of Mars, after his crew is forced to make an emergency evacuation, and read-outs from his punctured suit (some distance away) indicate that he is no longer alive. However, due to some miraculous circumstances, Watney wakes up some time later, alone on Mars but very much alive. From there, the action moves back and forth between the surface of Mars, where Watney must use his wits and the equipment left on the surface to figure out how to survive, and NASA at the Johnson Space Center, where everyone first grieves his death and, later, tries to figure out how to rescue him. It's like the movie Castaway crossed with the TV show MacGyver and set on Mars.

Damon is fabulous in this movie (as he usually is), playing Watney with intelligence and humor, just as he is portrayed in the book. For much of the movie, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, he is on-screen alone, though he has the advantage of making video logs and, later, sending e-mails, so he's technically not talking to himself (or to a volleyball) all the time. Back on earth, the NASA employees and contractors are played by a combination of celebrities, including Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, and Donald Glover (of Community fame) and lesser-known actors. With scenes alternating between Mark alone on Mars and the team at NASA trying desperately to save him, there is plenty of suspense here.

For fans of the novel, the movie sticks pretty close to the book, and it's wonderful to see such a great book come to life on the screen. I was especially intrigued to see what equipment like the Hab, the Rover, and the MAV looked like. As is typical in a book adaptation, a few scenes in the book were cut in the movie, a necessary step to fit an entire novel into a 2-hour movie, and many of the detailed calculations in the book were left out (that would make a dull movie) and instead covered by Damon saying "I'm going to have to science the sh*t out of this." There were two production choices made that I found puzzling. In the movie, Watney was left behind about two weeks later than he was in the book - a very minor point, but I couldn't figure out why they changed that. They also changed the very obviously-Indian Director of Mars Operations, Venkat Kapoor, into Vincent Kapoor, played by the Nigerian actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. I guess they really wanted that actor. They did try to explain it by having him say that his mother was Hindu and his father a southern Baptist, but then why did he have an Indian last name? Again, a trivial choice but one that I found odd.

My husband and I both enjoyed the movie (and our rare evening out!) very much, as did our two sons when they saw it with their friends, and the two and a half hours flew by. The acting was excellent all around, and even though we knew how it ended, there was still plenty of suspense built into this thriller in space.

The Martian is now playing in theaters.

Have you seen any good movies lately?


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