‘The Martian’ solid Ridley Scott sci-fi

Isaac Owens, Broadcasting Manager

The first thing any moviegoer should know about The Martian is that the man behind the magic was the one and only Sir Ridley Scott. As one of few directors with ‘Final Cut’ privilege, Scott is seen by many to be one of the greatest living directors. With a filmography consisting of Best Picture Winner Gladiator, sci-fi horror classic Alien, and neo-noir staple Blade Runner under his belt, it’s safe to say expectations were high.

With all of the praise being given to Scott, the question still remains “Was The Martian good?” The answer? Yes. However, as some expected it to, the movie did not quite fall into Oscar territory. In his films, Scott has been able to conjure up unique and exciting dramas, but what was unexpected about this one is that it is very much a comedy.

Martian is the survival story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut stranded on the planet Mars. While the thought of a space survival thriller may seem like a retread of a retread, Scott was able to bring a fresh look to the dry genre. Packed full of suspenseful moments and witty dialogue, the movie tells the story through the eye’s of Watney, and those on Earth trying to bring him home.

Since the dawn of science fiction movies, films have been cluttered with scenes of dialogue in which a scientist describes something far too abstract for mortal understanding, and someone responds with “in English please?” The purpose is simple; make the movie appear to be saying something smart and profound by dumbing down what is already meaningless. One of The Martian’s strong suits was taking a different approach to this storytelling tactic. Instead of delivering information that the audience couldn’t care less about, this movie tries to example what is going on in the movie in a sensible fashion.

In an age of Hollywood where the audience is expected to be mindless popcorn junkies it was incredibly refreshing to feel as though the movie cared about what it was saying. Through video journals Watney shares his experiments in a way that lets the audience care about the moments that truly mattered; like how he ever could have survived.

While Matt Damon gives a strong performance on Mars, the entertaining characters (and plenty of the comedy) is found on Earth. The wide range of acting talents include Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the one and only Donald Glover (better known as Childish Gambino), and each one of them does justice to Drew Goddard’s (The Cabin in the Woods) script. The conversations throughout the movie are littered with dark and light comedy that are a nice mix for the at times overly serious genre.

Along with compelling science fiction and well approached humor, The Martian is visually stunning. Today, it seems as though movies are designed for those with ADD. Constantly, something needs to be happening, whether it be violence, sex or just dialogue. The audience never wants a low key moment. One of the most memorable moments of the movie come from a very simple scene.

For far longer than America’s attention span can last, the scene entails  Watney simply driving. It is very simple, but full of meaning as the camera pans the gorgeous Mars wasteland. It’s a type of scene that is perfected by a director of those earlier days in filmmaking. On another note, those are some of the coolest space suites ever put on the big screen.

Overall, The Martian was quite excellent. It may have dragged on only the tiniest bit, but largely there are no complaints to be had. Ridley Scott gave us an enjoyably, intelligent and comedic film, and Matt Damon delivered the performance of a true and great hero, who is wonderful to root for. While Ridley Scott has made some flops, The Martian is not one of them. It’s no Best Picture, but rather a fantastic end to this underwhelming Summer Blockbuster season. No need to doubt it, Scott, I am entertained.