By Darin Skaggs
There is an old joke in which a religious man has a boat with a hole in it at the middle of the ocean. Three different boats pass and offer help, but due to the man’s incredible faith he claims God will save him and tells the rescuers to move along. Eventually, the boat sinks and the man drowns and when he gets to Heaven asks God why he didn’t save him. God’s response “Well, I sent you three boats to save you.” Ridley Scott’s The Martian is about the guy who not only takes the help from any rescue mission approaching, but fixes the boat, catches fish and makes the salt water drinkable. The Martian is not about a man stranded at sea, but stranded alone on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and crew including Melissa (Jessica Chastain), Rick (Michael Pena), Beth (Kate Mara), Alex (Aksel Hennie) and Chris (Sebastian Stan) are all there on a mission to the red planet. After a while a storm hits the team and they are forced to evacuate. While traveling to the escape ship Watney is hit by a loose satellite and has to be left for dead. By a freak accident Watney awakes and finds himself alive though thought to be dead by everyone else. He then uses everything in his power to stay alive and contact NASA so he can get home.
The man stranded alone with little hope of getting home film has been told over and over. This tale is one of the better lone survivor stories. What makes this one so special is how much time and effort it spends making you feel like it is really happening. There is so much scientific and technological lingo. They refer to parts of the ship, they estimate time in a fashion that seems believable. All the facts stated or hypothesis explained could all be made up but are written, performed and edited in such a way that makes it seem authentic. The best part is this is all exposition, just letting us the audience know what everyone is up to. In a brilliant, very well handled decision the lone Matt Damon gives every explanation of what he is up to is told through him recording it on the bases video log system.
Damon is great in this movie, what really works is the amount of humor used throughout. Ridely Scott directs everything fine, but the script written by Drew Goddard, with all the science talk, and the very affective humorous lines. Again almost all of Damon’s lines are told into the video system and all of the lines are him just trying to humor himself, even though he feels like he is talking to someone else knowing that others will one day watch it. The lines could be seen as too silly, but the writing and delivery of those lines really work. Damon gets the most laughs, but everyone else talks like they are real people and not characters which lets them have several moments of making each other laugh.
Besides all the science talk, the film is also all about faith. It never quite comes out and says that Watney is asking for help from God or that he thinks God has anything to do with his survival, but it sure is hinted at. Watney uses Rick’s little wooden religious statue to help with sustaining his water supply. At other times he looks up saying “Come on” and “Thanks” as if he is talking to someone there. The way every little thing works out, how everyone seems to always have just enough resources to get by and help get Watney rescued is like someone out there is watching over him. Like the man in the sinking boat, God or whoever, sends just the right amount of help he needs to get home. The Martian is a pleasant surprise from Scott and especially Goddard.