Despite generally positive reviews for The Martian (93% on Rotten Tomatoes), I was a little worried about watching a long movie (144 minutes) with Matt Damon as an astronaut, after seeing a long movie (166 minutes) LAST year with Matt Damon as an astronaut. That previous film was the nearly impenetrable Interstellar.
Or maybe it’d be an isolating film, like Tom Hanks and a volleyball in Cast Away. Or, since I understand the science of The Martian was reported to be pretty much spot on, based on a very wonkish book, that it might be boring as all get out.
It is none of the above. You’ll laugh out loud! You’ll cry! You’ll believe a man can grow potatoes in an inhospitable environment! You’ll be amazed how appropriate the unlikely soundtrack is; the choice for the end credits is inspired.
The cast is quite excellent, with Jessica Chastain as the astronaut commander who feels guilty, but not depressingly so; Michael Peña (who I saw in Ant-Man) as another astronaut; Jeff Daniels as the politics-balancing NASA administrator; the fascinating Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis, the surprising Donald Glover, and especially Aksel Hennie as various NASA staff; and Benedict Wong as the overwrought Jet Propulsion Lab guy.
The one really false note was Daniels’ character taking about a small margin for error, followed almost immediately by some problem.
But what got me was the true optimism of The Martian, a can-do attitude pretty much throughout without being too nerdy. Damon’s Watley keeps himself sane by trying to “science the s@#!” out of his resources, countries negotiate how to work together, people around the world sharing a single vision. THAT was what made me teary-eyed in this Ridley Scott film, a united planet when we don’t seem to have it right now. In some way, the politics are more utopian than the science.
I wish The Wife had gone to see this with me Sunday night, as I walked home from the Madison Theatre through the London-like fog.