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The Martian Review

Tien-Li Hsiung

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The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jeff Daniels. In 2035, astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is accidently stuck on Mars during an evacuation trip, leaving him stranded on the red planet alone. With only his knowledge of botany and astronomy to aid him, Watney must survive for an unknown amount of time in order to return to Earth. Luckily for Watney, NASA’s Director of Mars Missions, Vincent Kapoor (Ejiofor), realizes he’s stuck on Mars and plans to rescue him.

One of the best elements of The Martian is humor. The comedic scenes all come from what’s happening instead of random gags. All the cursing feels natural and a part of the characters’ dialogue, not artificial and forced-in for shock value. The Martian is definitely one of the best dramedies (drama and comedy) of 2015.

The titular Martian himself is a relatable main character. Watney’s goal of surviving on Mars alone is simple, but also effective. Whenever Watney finds a way to survive on Mars, he gets excited like a little kid. However, Watney’s still human, so he gets frustrated whenever something doesn’t go his way or when he completely fails.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast of The Martian can feel rather lifeless with only one or two personalities truly sticking out — such as Jeff Daniels’ Theodore Sanders, the Director of NASA who wants to save Watney but can’t afford to make any life-threatening risks, or Michael Pena’s Rick Martinez, an enthusiastic, if not naive, former teammate of Watney who helps with his rescue. Those characters are decent, while Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis feels completely lifeless. It seems like Lewis’s only purpose was to get Watney back from Mars, as her only defining character trait is that she likes 70’s and 80’s disco music. However, the worst example of this flaw is Donald Glover’s Rich Purnell. Purnell’s only purpose is to provide another solution to save Watney after something on Mars goes wrong. What makes it worse is that Purnell is suddenly introduced in the third act of the movie without any foreshadowing.

However, the main idea behind The Martian is to be an uplifting film where the human spirit accomplishes the impossible. In this case, help the first man to be alone on a planet get back home to Earth. The Martian does win over the audience with that premise and central theme. Despite The Martian having the flaw of introducing solutions to problems out of nowhere, the film’s upbeat tone and characters are charming enough to redeem some of its mistakes.

Overall, The Martian isn’t a film trying to be dramatic or angst-driven, but rather idealistic and aspiring. Even if some of the characters and pacing are undeniably flawed, the point of The Martian is to show that the human drive to succeed and help others is not a weakness. Although not a perfect film, the message of The Martian is told in a such an uplifting way that its strengths outdoes its weaknesses. The Martian is an 8/10.

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Flower Mound High School's student-led newspaper
The Martian Review