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Resilience is the theme of The Martian, a movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind by his crew, who think him dead, completely alone and in a hostile environment with very limited resources. Watney simply takes stock of his situation and determines, “I’m not going to die here.”
The Martian is appealing not only because it takes place in space—watching people float around in zero gravity is always cool—but because its hero, while unlike the caped crusaders crowding the box office these days, is superhuman. Watney never falters in his goal to survive, and despite multiple near mission failures, he somehow keeps his mind clear enough to constantly restrategize. His powers include his brain and his training, and if nothing else, he certainly provides an argument for learning botany. But most of all, Watney demonstrates an incredible optimism that resembles faith. It is inspiring, even though its source is never explored.
Damon gives Watney moments of emotion that ground his gallows humor, and the jokes in the script keep the tone of the movie light. Based on a novel by Andy Weir that takes the science part of “science fiction” very seriously, the movie leaves out some key beats of the book’s plot.
Their absence in the movie allows it to stay intimately focused on Watney and his desperate bid for survival, but also keep the story oddly small. The Martian is closer to Gravity than Armageddon, with minimal attention on how Watney’s story impacts the world or even the crew (led by Jessica Chastain, as Commander Lewis). This movie is all about Watney’s space adventure.
The Martian is rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity. Watney is fond of the F-word, and the movie (mostly) creatively works around actually using it in ways that make it obvious what he’s saying. The treatment of his injuries is sometimes graphic.
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