The Martian (2015) (PG-13)

Ridley Scott's name seems inseparable with science fiction. This is the director that brought audiences the "Alien" franchise and "Blade Runner" (which I still think I'm the only person who doesn't like that movie). His name remains in the conversation because he has made masterpieces but in recent years he seemed to drop of the radar. I think "Prometheus" was sensational but I was one of few and so with "The Martian", Scott returns to science fiction with one of the most solid pieces of entertainment in recent years.
Somehow, there's a safety when you go into "The Martian" simply because you might know the premise or have read the book. There's the knowledge that we aren't about to see a horror movie. Instead, "The Martian" is a much more watchable and less bleak version of "Cast Away" because we watch our hero battle the odds in MacGyver-like fashion when everything goes to shit around him. And to be fair, the movie throws wrenches into his plans left and right and Scott is a clever enough director to allow his audience to feel less interested in how the protagonist deals with these situations and more interested in the character himself, which is exactly how it should be.
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is a botanist on a NASA mission to Mars when a storm hits and he is separated from the rest of his crew who are forced to take off and abort the mission. They think he's dead and back on Earth NASA big man Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is forced to announce to the public that Watney died.
But when Watney regains consciousness on Mars, he has to immediately go into survival mode to save his own skin, the result of which plays like many montages sequences of Matt Damon (who begins to narrate to the camera in a "video journal" fashion) fixing up the base and making cool new gadgets that help him survive. At one point, when faced with the inevitable starvation of waiting for the next ship to come to Mars, Watney looks right at the camera and says "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this." This slightly humorous line sort of sums up the entire movie: Mark Watney sciencing the shit out of Mars.
Back on Earth NASA is met with controversies and press releases and so much stress I think I was getting ulcers just watching it. The realization that Mark might still be alive sends NASA into a frenzy, not knowing how to get access to Mark and not wanting to let him die out there, but also preserving some sort of company integrity while doing so. And through all this let me just say, God bless Jeff Daniels. The man is a great actor and here he is used very well. He becomes the shining star of the movie, excluding Damon's own performance.
That's essentially the whole movie, which goes on for two and a half hours, but don't worry, you don't feel tired or cheated by this. The plot keeps moving really quickly and there's really no boredom ever on the screen. The action is high, the drama is real, and all the performances are spot on...with one exception.
When it comes to a movie of this caliber, any weaker moments fester in my mind and I can't let it go and sometimes it ruins the whole movie for me. In this case, it's Donald Glover. The all-star cast is rounded out by Glover who comes in with a very crucial but very minor role. He is the cocky college kid who is also a genius (naturally) and he plays up the super-nerd card so much it's almost unbearable to watch. He sticks out like a sore thumb, particularly when paired against other actors who are nothing short of believable. Glover has no business being in the movie and his antics make him seem more like a SNL hyperbole than a legitimate actor.
That's really my only complaint, I wish I could have been a movie god and flicked Donald Glover right out of the film itself...I'm usually a fan, but not this time.
"The Martian" is an easy success and Scott proves that he can pull a lot of emotion out of a technologically sophisticated script. There are a lot of cliches, the largest one being "people explain science with ordinary kitchen table objects" but in this "The Martian" is hardly the only movie participating in this. The security is always there because people love happy endings, but the ride was worth it.
You should go see this movie.

Score: ★★★½

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