PG-13 for language and metal things sticking out of people. I think a movie can get two f-bombs and still get a PG-13 rating. The Martian definitely uses one straight out, but then implies a lot more f-bombs beyond that. There's some other language, but that's really about it. He's all by himself. Oh, that's right. You see Matt Damon's stand-in's bum. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
I think I end up rewatching this movie over and over without actually planning to rewatch this movie. It might be the best crowd favorite that's come out since 2015. I tell people I'm watching The Martian and people always seem down to watch it. I actually get a little floored when people haven't seen it. I know that I'm not part of history, but I think The Martian might be the closest thing we've seen to a modern classic for a long time. It's got mass appeal. It's well made. It is compelling and I can't really think of a flaw beyond the unacceptable runtime. So what makes this movie so good?
I'm never going to put it on my favorites list. It probably won't make a ton of lists outside of talking about specific subgenres. But The Martian might be a movie that respects its audience while not forgetting to entertain them. I know that there will be an argument about authenticity. Lots of people love this movie for how authentic the science is in the film. Others claim that it is not authentic enough. Where I stand on the subject is that it has a very strong attempt to be authentic. It is a very smart movie, but doesn't talk down to you. There's a fine line where a movie like this could be overloaded with technobabble. It's sci-fi. I'm sure that there was temptation to load this movie chalk full of technobabble. Instead, it tries grounding as much as it can in the real world. There are times that I actually forget that this is a science fiction story. I don't know if that's the purpose of science fiction as a whole, but it is definitely one philosophy of film. We have to be able to accept the film as reality. We almost need to forget that we're watching a film. I watched The Martian this last time out of obligation, which is unfair to this film. It's going to be part of my paper and I needed to knock it out during an unbearably stressful week. But to its credit, I was invested whenever I watched it. I know how the story plays out at this point. I know the beat-to-beats for the most part, but I still find it extremely fascinating. Again, the science plays a big part of this, but the other end of it is Matt Damon. I think Matt Damon has entered the pantheon of gross dudes as far as I remember. But Damon is so darned charming. Since the movie is about a guy who is isolated on Mars for four years, he kind of has to be charming. The thing is that I don't like the stranded narrative normally. I just read Robinson Crusoe and was so-so about it. I really didn't like CastAway. These are stories about cleverness, but cleverness works when you have charisma. Damon's character is crafted in a way that is kind of superficial, but it is the only way to make this story work.
I'm about to start dunking on the movie, but these are all compliments. Every choice about Matt Damon's character is super smart. His character is entirely comprised of charm and intellect. He's smart and funny and that's what gets us through the story. Traditional thinking says that our protagonist needs to be deep and conflicted. He should normally have someone to pine for. We don't have any mentions of Watney's family outside a brief request to tell his mother that he loves her. Watney is almost free of characterization shy of being determined and this is, against all odds, a breath of fresh air. The story shows that the world is a scary place and that everything is trying to kill him. The movie doesn't need to have to tell me how bad things look. SPOILER: The movie ends with him confessing that he thought that he was going to die out there. Honestly, I would have made the mistake and focused on Watney's despair. The confessionals would have all been comprised of him pining for a loved one that he couldn't get at home. I would have him throwing potatoes across the room and then scrounging them up. Instead, we actually get a fairly positive protagonist. He sees the silver lining of every situation while belly-aching for comic effect. But that works. There are these breaks in action. When we should be despairing, the script, brilliantly laid out by Drew Goddard, counteracts that. There are so many moments where I would have just given up. I'm sure most audiences kind of were on my team for those moments. But instead, Watney has these realizations. He doesn't ignore what just happened, but instead redirects his focus with fun asides. Instead on focusing on the pathos of the moment, Watney redirects to the mundane and it works really really well. The use of the documentary / diary style filmmaking is just charming. 1) It makes it feel like he's talking just to use. We are NASA. 2) It ties the story to the reality of the situation. We are the Smithsonian. We are historians discovering this man's diary. This is done, in part, to match the style of Andy Weir's novel. But it works really well for the movie.
My paper is how visual and audio elements have fundamentally changed the travel narrative. The Martian is not going to be the focus of my paper, but it does provide something really interesting, say, compared to the novel or Robinson Crusoe. I applaud Ridley Scott for making an awful place interesting to visit. Everything on Mars is made to kill Watney. Simple things mean death. This is a place that is not meant to be inhabited, yet everything is still oddly appealing. It's the beauty of danger. Like the best visual travel narratives, we see the most daring elements of ourselves. I'm personally the kind of guy who likes cuddling up in the covers and being really comfortable. But when I watch stories like this, I want to explore the universe. I want to traverse the dangerous. I want to climb mountains. Like, now that I'm typing and comfortable, I don't want to do that. But Ridley Scott manages to capture of the beauty of Mars for most of the film. There are storms and those storms seem terrible. But there are also red skies and craters and mountains. Part of it also comes from the soundtrack. There is this diagetic element of the disco soundtrack that Watney has. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, there's this awesome juxtaposition between the music of the '70s dance scene and the majesty of the unknown. I think we all think that we hate disco, but these are the movies that remind us that disco, used well, is extremely effective when it comes to manipulating mood. There are these moments when he's driving the rover around the landscape where the music just reflects the road trips films that I've fallen in love with. This kind of brings me to Ridley Scott as a director. I have a love/hate relationship with Ridley Scott. I love Alien so much, but a lot of his movies have a certain look. This look is cool in small doses, but it tends to get in his own way. This might be Ridley Scott's most fun movie. He has a way of making films look majestic, but usually it tries too hard. In this case, I think he's getting out of his own way. It still looks majestic, but without the feeling of trying too hard. Maybe its the lack of pigeons or something. But the movie doesn't feel like the rest of his stuff. It's still extremely well crafted, but without a feeling of effort or Ridley Scott's thumbprint. I actually wonder how Scott feels about this piece because it feels the least like the rest of his work.
I love The Martian and I'm not the only person who thought that. It's a crowd pleaser, which makes me kind of remember that it didn't win too many Academy Awards. But this is also a commentary on the Academy Awards. Sometimes it's the loser that actually makes the critical impact versus the winner. Regardless, if you tell me that you are going to watch The Martian, I might just sit down and join you.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.