The Martian  (2015)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                     141 Min        12A

Ridley Scott’s latest returns to space for a film steeped in science, and one which sees explorer Mark Watney (Matt Damon) left behind on Mars after the rest of his team (sent from NASA to establish a base on the planet) leave him behind when a storm forces them to abort and they assume him to be toast. Possibly sending into the popular domain phrases such as ‘I’m going to have to science the shit out of this’, and, ‘Nobody gets left behind, except Matt Damon’, the film begins sloooowly as we’re mostly dealing with Mark by himself wondering how to survive and indeed we’re greeted by multiple moments from the trailer, but at least that gets them out of the way and it’s not too long before the story flits between ground control on Earth and the other crew on the Ares III who are on their way home, which finally brings us back onboard as an audience (interesting if they had found life on the planet and had to explain coming in peace and yet naming their mission after the Greek god of war {Mars is the Roman equivalent of Ares}).

The science doesn’t always hold up; it’s been said the atmosphere wouldn’t actually be able to generate the initial storm, for example, and we see a manual docking procedure in space which is unlikely (after the collapse of the USSR the Russian space agency decided to save money by not paying for the now Ukrainian automated guidance system for supplying the Mir Space Station, with the resultant manual attempt a devastating crash that shut down half of the power to the station and left the Spektr module inoperable), but all these things are minor details and don’t ultimately matter – the science critical to the plot, especially relating to survival, is often both sound and interesting, although certain characters do seem to keep ideas to themselves for a questionable amount of time.

Adapted from Andy Weir’s 2011 novel by screenwriter Drew Goddard (‘World War Z‘, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ 12) and with several big names in support: Jessica Chastain (who actually gets to go into space this time after ‘Interstellar‘), Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Benedict Wong as the head of the Jet Propulsion Lab (not wise – apparently no one remembers Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’ {07} come the 2030s) and they, together with Damon and great visuals of Mars (Martian scenes were filmed in Jordan, and visors were commonly omitted for the astronauts – they had to be made digitally afterward replete with reflections which is no mean feat) all create an involving human drama on a par with the memorable ‘Apollo 13′ (95). Look out for the bit with the sticky-tape, so annoying.

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