The Martian

Being presumed dead and stranded on Mars sounds pretty dire. Thankfully, Matt Damon shrugs it off and gets to work. In The Martian, Damon plays Mark Watney, a botanist with the personality of a middle manager attempting to be one of the boys. He responds to crises with annoyance (and some PG-13 friendly cursing) or stiff attempts at glib one-liners which belie a sense of humor which could only be funny to the guy who wrote Cloverfield. For the most part, he doesn’t seem to mind being the only person on a planet, figuring out how to grow potatoes, occasionally sitting and enjoying a Martian sunset. Ridley Scott directs the film with the relentless momentum of a procedural, attempting an instructional quality on how to survive spacesuit decompression or rescue someone from a planet. The film quickly spreads out to a network of physicists, astronauts, engineers, contractors, and bureaucrats working towards a goal, as much motivated by what will make them look good as saving a comrade. Upsets in carefully arranged plans are rarely dwelt on, solutions fast to arrive. Triumph is almost a given, rather than hard-won through ordeal. At the very least, Scott has made the best possible Ron Howard movie.

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