Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Martian | Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie | Review

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5 Chicks Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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The Martian | Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie | Review

Typically, one establishes legal residency after six months of living in a certain location, so astronaut-botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) qualifies as a Martian.  Abandoned by his crew during a sudden storm (they thought he was dead) Watney must figure out a way to remain alive within the hostile atmosphere of Mars until (maybe) a mission can swing by and rescue him.  Only that mission is four years away.

Fortunately, the resourceful Watney has the skills, training, and intellect to rig systems (making water, growing potatoes) that can prolong his life well past his assumed expiration date.  Everyone on earth thinks he’s dead, while the crew from Watney’s Ares III mission hasn’t even returned home yet.  And you thought the flight to Australia was long.

Watney is given a solemn funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, while various NASA officials (and the global population) shake their collective heads at the unfortunate price of space exploration.  Meanwhile, a junior NASA operative (Mackenzie Davis) discovers purposeful movement on the planet.  Watney’s trek to activate the Pathfinder lander (launched in 1996) initiates a crude communication with NASA, creating more questions than answers about his plight.

Now that the world knows he’s alive, how can rescue be achieved?  Is it even possible?  Should the returning crew be told of his survival?  How much time can Watney squeeze out of his air, water, and food resources?  Earth’s best minds coalesce to prevent Mars’ lone resident from a looming expiration date, including a surprising international ally and a young astrodynamicist.

Director Ridley Scott (Alien) shot from locations in Jordan and Hungary to approximate the red planet and the result is miles of spectacular mountain vistas in rusty hues, its superlative panoramic scenery marred only by the desolate, air-free isolation that is Watney’s struggling existence, devoid of any other human contact.

He does, however, have a stash of 70’s music and sitcoms courtesy of mission commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain).  Who can be depressed with all of that access to The Fonz?  And Donna Summers’ Hot Stuff is the perfect accompaniment to digging up radioactive materials left by a previous mission for use as a power source.  Hey, it’s a space party! With disco balls and bell bottoms!

Except that it’s dangerous and lonely and sometimes there’s an explosion.  Other than that, Watney remains in relatively good spirits, his sarcastic humor punctuating the recorded daily reports of his survival tactics.

Andy Weir’s 2011 novel is adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) and the intelligence and hard science remain intact.  Matt Damon hits a (red) bull’s-eye as the resourceful, wise-ass Watney.

The formidable supporting cast includes Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, portraying Watney’s rescue team, both on earth and in space, but the laser beam focus of the film aims straight at Watney’s Mars dilemma.

Bet you didn’t know that duct tape could save your life.  As Watney discovers, it is sometimes better to be red than dead.  At least until your (space) ship comes in.