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The Martian: Solitude with a Smile

Waking up is usually not the worst part of one’s nightmare. But then again, waking up on Mars is probably not on your checklist of normal situations.

The notion of doing such is enough to make an agoraphobiac twitch a time or two. But luckily for the story, neither you nor I are the ones experiencing this terrifying predicament. Rather it is an individual by the name of Mark Watney, who was left by his crew on a deserted planet, presumed dead. Poor Watney has being given the most unfair and unfathomable of life’s decks handed to him. Now it is up to his high intellect to survive each day, as well as those on earth to get over personal differences and figure out what in the world to do next. Because there will be no easy or sane solution, that’s for sure.

Maybe I should back up a moment. Does this look a wee bit familiar? I thought so. Merely a year after the release of the Christopher Nolan space/philosophy/thriller Interstellar, we are given a space adventure flick with the likes of Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain at the helm, with Damon playing the stranded Astronaut. Seriously, one might wonder if this Déjà vu moment will feel “same ole’ same ole’”, but believe me, this is as contrasting as is humanly possible. Rather than giving us mind bending questions and twists, we are given a rather straight forward narrative that would prefer human relatability and humor to take the lead. Each great in their own right, but this viewpoint stands its own ground to perfection in this new Ridley Scott Classic (as I’m sure it will be).

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Before we travel into space and meet the lone astronaut Mark Watney, I think we ought to take a look at the content for a bit. The biggest head turners found are the harsh language in the first 40 minutes or so (2 F and 5 S words are dropped), followed by some more scattered throughout (a few S, a couple of implied or mouthed F, and a handful of “lesser” words thrown in as well). These alone are enough to make this film a reasonable candidate for the Clearplay, Vidangel, or TVG players at home. There are also 2 rude/suggestive comments, as well as a brief image of male/rear nudity (which is played out to show Watney’s loss of weight). So in short, it is best to leave the kids at home, or wait for the DVD filters to help out!

Now back to Mark (played by Matt Damon), said intelligent and level headed castaway (he got to Mars after all). But that’s not all he’s got up his sleeve; he is also quite possibly the most sarcastic and witty of optimists on the planet…well, on earth too. It’s as if Damon compiled the likes of Will Hunting’s brain, Jason Bourne’s improvisation skills, and added a dash of the most relatable and amusing of protagonists to hit the silver screen in quite some time. I know I overshoot quite a bit, but an Oscar prediction here sure doesn’t seem out of place for one of Damon’s best performances in quite some time. We get to see this everyday man have to live out one of the most horror-drenched situations possible, and face it with confidence and ambition. To be totally honest, I sure wasn’t expecting this type of character from Watney, but no complaints on my end. Near the beginning of this terrible circumstance, Watney is in pain, as well as feeling discouraged and alone. Yet in a revealing moment of silence, his quick meditation leads to one mere conclusion; “….I’m not dying here.” It is with this certainty that Damon’s performance and character drive this picture along!

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Now back on the safety of earth, you might just say that those countless people (literally each one of them is a major A-lister) involved in retrieving this lone Martian are faced with an even more difficult task; get along and get in sync to save one priceless life. I believe it is on this end that we find the truly significant and applicable message of the film. While Watney’s endurance and high spirits are sure a thing of inspiration, I find the forced unity of mankind to be quite a significant aspect. What we are faced with is a bunch of individuals all representing many opinions, viewpoints, professions, and even rival countries whom all have to get along and work endlessly for the sake of the mission at stake (with some cool, albeit quite farfetched and ridiculous results) . It definitely brings to mind the importance of Christ’s church. Though there will be different agendas, programs, and personalities in the church; what is most important is to lay aside pride for a bit and push for the main mission of His work. God has given us individuality for a reason, but we need to blend our gifts and talents to strengthen His church rather than our own agenda (La 1 Corinthians 12:12-20).

What is equally admirable is that the cast and crew seem to follow the same formula for success as their respectable characters have found. Though the film bolsters some of the finest of supporting actors in the biz (Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Sebastian Stan), as well as top notch lead stars too (Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kate Mara), none of them are willing to steal the screen longer than is necessary to make the film succeed. That is not to say that they don’t give it their all, because they’re completely fantastic. But what is interesting is that each actor plays essentially “themselves”, trying not to take the spotlight from the main focus (or mission) of the film. But as always, there are a few notable shout-outs. I for one was highly impressed with the ever talented actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and my main girl Jessica Chastain, who deliver fantastic and restrained performances (also a shout out to the impressive newbies Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover).

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The film is essentially what the tagline says, “bring him home.” That is the drive and importance of this highly beautiful, intense, engrossing, visually stunning, and even funny film. It was incredibly encouraging to see the great Ridley Scott (just coming off possibly his worst film in Exodus: Gods and Kings) and the talented Matt Damon (who has done very little noteworthy since True Grit) really make a duo come back here in The Martian. It is a film about perspective. For Watney’s character, it is all about keeping your head up and trying to last a little longer. For those back at home and still in space, theirs is to make sure Watney’s viewpoint isn’t let down. Ridley and company put the human species under a microscope, and we exited feeling strangely proud and hopeful for the future as long as we bind together for a worthy cause. A conclusion that is worthy of both my thumbs up, as well as my $10 ticket. Great job, you bozos…Now, go wash your mouths out, and get to Clearplay.

Andrew Warnes

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