NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

‘The Martian’ a Warm, Humorous Tale of Isolation and Survival

People who go into “The Martian,” whether they’ve read Andy Weir’s novel or not, will probably be able to predict how it ends.I don’t dare spoil whether or not the title character ever makes it off Mars after getting marooned there, but you’ve probably got the answer in your head right now.

Why bring this up? Well, rare is the movie that remains gripping despite its predictability; “The Martian” is the newest gem in this category. This might be the warmest movie about isolation ever made.

As I’ve partially revealed, the plot centers on Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a sweet and snarky astronaut whose team is forced to leave him behind in the wake of a deadly sandstorm.

They think he’s dead, but you don’t cast Matt Damon just to have him play a corpse. He wakes up to find himself minus four friends, literally the only person on the entire planet.

Oh yeah, and it will be years before NASA can send a rescue mission.

What’s a guy to do? Start figuring out how he can survive long enough to be rescued in the first place, of course. Even with all the food from the crew members who fled the scene, he’s still short a couple years in the eats department.

Good thing he’s a botanist.

The scenes of Watney by his lonesome, attempting to grow food, are surprisingly warm and funny.

His character requires a certain sense of humor and optimism for us to believe he’d actually make it through this ordeal, and Damon lends him this credibility in spades.

We also get a lot of fun details about his teammates in the process.

One adorable scene sees Watney bemoaning his commander’s taste in disco, the only music available to him on Mars.

“Don’t you have anything from this century?” he says.

Watney’s adventure is broken up by scenes of the folks at NASA, trying to figure out how to save Watney while fighting off a nightmarish PR situation. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who, to my knowledge, has never given a bad performance) are all phenomenal in their supporting roles. Donald Glover, in a bit part as a young aerodynamics specialist, is a scene-stealing pleasure every time he appears onscreen.Later on, for reasons I will not disclose, Watney’s team becomes involved in the story again. Like those of the NASA crew, these performances are filled with life and energy. It’s nice to see Michael Peña so soon after his comedic sidekick role in “Ant-Man,” and Jessica Chastain — leaping from last year’s space epic “Interstellar” — lends this role the same drama and sensitivity.

“The Martian” is a movie about humanity at its most resilient. Every person in the film reminds us that, in spite of the horrible news we hear every day, amazing things can happen when we put aside our differences and work toward a common goal. We all need the occasional reminder that our world, and the humans that occupy it, are not as bad as they seem.

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