A review of The Martian
by Jeremy Robinson
When I went to see The Martian, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard wonderful things about the novel, and it’s been on my to-read list for a very long time. (It’s a long list that gets very little time, and I’m a slow reader.) But, this was the movie. And it was the opening weekend, so Facebook and Twitter hadn’t yet given away the entire plot, which I will attempt to not do as well.
I saw the trailer once, so I knew I was going to see a story about Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut left behind on Mars when the mission goes FUBAR. I also knew from the trailer that at some point, the crew that left him behind would be heading back to rescue him. What I didn’t know was if he would survive, and if so, how. Once I decided I was going to see it, I ignored everything about it, and even missed the fact that it was directed by Ridley Scott. And I’m glad I didn’t know, because even knowing that would have given me some expectations, and I often find those to be toxic to my enjoyment of a movie.
I got to the theater a half hour early, got a prime spot in one of the theater’s new recliners, and chowed down on a hotdog. When the movie started after twenty minutes of trailers, I was eager to get started, but I wasn’t prepared for it.
There have been a lot of movies about lost people, about overcoming the odds to survive, at sea, in war, and in space, but none of them tackle the subject quite like this movie (and probably the novel). In most stories like this, there is an overpowering and depressing sense of hopelessness. That all is lost. And whether or not the movie has a happy ending, we are convinced that there is no hope, and we’re brought to that low point along with the character.
Not so with The Martian. Never mind the fate of Mark Watney at the movie’s end, I left the theater feeling hopeful, that problems could be faced one at a time, and through focus
and determination, overcome. As an entrepreneur who built a business and writing career after 13 years of struggling through one roadblock after another, the moral of this story really resonated with me. I kept thinking, “Yes! I like this guy’s attitude! He gets it!”
I’ve heard it said that writing a novel is basically a long process of problem solving. As the writer, I create characters that I, and hopefully the reader, care about. Then I throw them into the worst day (or years) of their lives and then, step by step, solve those problems, which often includes, as Mark Watney says, sciencing the shit of it. So I really identified with this character, and perhaps that’s why I really cared about him and his fate, and when I found myself tearing up (not in the abject despair similar movies conjure) I was happily surprised.
When the credits rolled, I was momentarily surprised when I saw it was directed by Ridley Scott. How had I missed that? As I mentioned before, this allowed me to go in without expectations: except one. Timing resulted in me going to the 3D showing. I hate 3D. With a passion. I hope it goes away. It blurs action scenes, gives me a headache, and directs the movie’s composition, which is artistically stupid. I have only ever seen one movie where I thought 3D was done well and actually added to the experience. And that was Prometheus, which did 3D so well I found myself leaning in my chair to look around people. Had I known Ridley Scott was the director, I would have had a little more faith in the 3D. And it would have been well placed.
No headache. No obnoxious motion blurring. And Scott is never a slave to the in-your-face shots that the technology seems to demand of directors. The Martian landscapes were beautifully rendered and convincing, and I often found myself forgetting I was wearing the glasses. That makes this only the second movie where I found 3D enjoyable and not something that makes me want to level Hollywood with a kaiju attack.
As you have probably figured out, I really enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. I’m sure that by the time this is posted, Facebook and Twitter will be giving away plot points. Ignore them if you can, and go see the movie. You’ll be entertained, but it might just change the way you see the problems you face.
My only real complaint about the movie was that during one of the quieter, yet awe inspiring scenes, the aged fellow sitting beside me lulled off to sleep and started chainsaw snoring. I faked a loud cough, woke him up, and thought, Hey look at that, I’m problem solving—just like Mark Watney!
In the end, I give The Martian four and a half Nemesis heads out of five. Why not five stars? I probably would have gone for the full five if there was a slightly stronger connection between Jesus on the crucifix (that’s not a spoiler) and Watney’s hope (the implication is there, but so thin that only believers will see it, or care). I know, I know, you’re saying, “This is a hard science fiction story. Why muddle it with religion?” To which I would reply, “This is a story about hope in a science fiction setting.” And for much of the world, maybe even for Mark Watney, hope comes from above. Whether that’s hope in human ingenuity or in a higher power, we can agree to disagree. But everyone will agree that this movie kicks ass. Go see it.
My Rating: Four and a half Nemesis heads!
Jeremy Robinson, is the international bestselling author of more than fifty monster novels and novellas, and producer of the Beware of Monsters podcast and frequent interviewee. He is also the creator and writer of the comic book series, Project Nemesis, which also inspired the video game, Fall of Nemesis: Colossal Kaiju Combat