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Non-Review Review: The Martian

The beauty of The Martian lies in its relative simplicity. Although it runs a solid two-hours-and-twenty-minutes, the film seems a lot faster than many of its contemporaries because it keeps its eyes on a very simply central dynamic. Within the opening five minutes, the movie’s status quo is established with breathless efficiency; astronaut Mark Whatney is left for dead on the surface of Mars, and must struggle to survive as the entire planet figures out how to get him back alive.

The premise is very straightforward, and seldom gets more complicated than that. Mark tries to figure out how to stay alive as the greatest minds back home work on daring plans to establish communication and possible retrieve the lost astronaut. Along the way, both Mark and NASA suffer setbacks and reversals; complications abound and dilemmas present themselves. However, The Martian is always anchored in that very basic struggle against overwhelming odds and an indifferent universe.

Is there life on Mars?

Is there life on Mars?

The Martian is something of a genre cocktail. The movie’s tone and plot is perhaps best evoked by reference to Byron Haskin’s 1964 cult classic “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.” Mark’s plight is not too dissimilar to that of the Robert Lewis Stevenson protagonist, nor to that of Chuck Noland in Cast Away or the anonymous protagonist of All is Lost. However, the movie’s stellar setting serves as a gateway to a broader commentary on human codependency and association. Nobody gets there on their own; nobody gets back alone.

The Martian is a surprisingly heartwarming and life-affirming adventure, anchored in a charming central performance from Matt Damon and a very deep ensemble. Despite the massive sense of scale involved, Ridley Scott’s direction and Drew Goddard’s script work hard to keep it all personal. The Martian is a triumph.

Matt Damon was very excited about the film's release...

Matt Damon was very excited about the film’s release…

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