Ridley Scott has done it once again: He has taken an utterly human story written by Drew Goddard and Andy Weir and taken it out of this world.
In his latest masterpiece, “The Martian,” we see the many sides of the human experience and, for the first time in what feels like ages, are allowed to dream of the extent to which we can take ourselves.
In this mesmerizing and simply stunning film, movie-goers get to experience cinema’s true capabilities.
Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is left behind on Mars after a storm forces the Ares Team to leave the planet.
After a piece of rogue equipment impales Mark and leads his team to believe him dead, he soon wakes up with a much more pressing problem: How do I survive?
This question is asked many times throughout cinema history, as heroes are pitted against the most perilous fates.
In “The Martian,” Scott dives into what makes us human and what it takes—both physically and mentally—to overcome our most difficult obstacles.
As Mark comes to terms with his situation and works to survive, his employers at NASA have already written him off as dead.
After the funeral and proper period of mourning, NASA resumes its day-to-day activities. NASA commissioner Teddy Sanders (played by Jeff Daniels) handles the issue like a true PR professional, with the help of his specialist Annie Montrose (played by Kristen Wig).
That is, until a message from Mars reveals that Mark is still alive.
As NASA scrambles to cover the media and works on getting help to Mark, Sanders must make a decision: risk the lives of the crew by sending them back for Mark, or let Mark fend for himself until a manned mission can make it to him in the next four years?
While NASA members squabble about how to approach the situation, Mark has made leaps and bounds in survival.
Having cultivated potatoes from Martian soil and human feces, he keeps fed and, through what Mark calls “sciencing the shit out of this,” he is able to set up communication with NASA.
Things seem to be on the up-and-up. But one of the film’s reoccurring themes is that “everything can and will go wrong.”
This theme proves true as every possible thing goes wrong in both NASA’s rescue attempt and Mark’s survival attempt.
The trial and error and sheer determination on both sides to save a human life shows what human beings are capable of. As time runs out and all the greatest minds on the planet work together, we, as an audience, are allowed to dream and be inspired by these characters.
This is the film’s major triumph.
The sheer range of emotion that I felt throughout the film reminded me why I love cinema so much. It was as though I was transported to being a child once again and watching “Apollo 13” for the first time.
Before I get too mushy, let us take a look at the film’s more technical aspects.
The cinematography was breathtaking.
With wide-open Martian vistas as well as the confessional storytelling mechanism that Scott uses to tell what could have been a quiet film on Mark’s side, Scott gives a real feeling of the story’s immensity and weight.
With touches of humor mixed with the anxiety and stress of the situations on earth and Mars, this film is all-encompassing emotionally.
There is an overwhelming sense of despair, and yet there is that silver lining so familiar to us in film. Hope and determination are the things that make us truly human in a universe far from concerned with our well-being.
We only have each other in the end.
The acting is superb. When you assemble a cast with the likes of Matt Damon, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wig, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor, as well as a breakout role from Donald Glover, you have a sure-fire recipe for success.
Each character lends a different lens to the situation.
You love and hate the characters just as they are meant to be loved and hated. Together, they show the entire spectrum of humanity and allow us to take in the sheer magnitude of each of the character’s feelings.
It is the perfect crew to pilot such a magnificent film.
There are so many parallels to draw: The film has “2001: A Space Odessy” visuals with an “Apollo 13” storyline, but with the style and flair of a Ridley Scott film.
It buries Nolan’s “Interstellar” and knocks “Gravity” out of this universe. It stands on its own, and I would go so far as to say it is Scott’s greatest accomplishment since “Alien” nearly 30 years ago.
It is a space-age film in a time where space travel has died. It is a film that will inspire the youth to chase after their dreams and the stars.
“The Martian” is a stark message to viewers to keep dreaming and to, most importantly, never give up.
It is a change of tune from the many shades of dark that Scott normally shows in his films, offering a welcome change of pace.
“The Martian” is a tale of perseverance, human unity and intelligence wrapped in a paper of stunning vistas, twinkling stars and dashing heroes and heroines.
The film is undoubtedly a must-see film for anyone wishing to be transported to a world that is both unforgivingly alien and completely human.
“The Martian” is playing at Cinemark Theaters in Conway and is rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images and brief nudity.
This article was originally published in the Oct. 7, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via youtube.com