Out of this world

“The Martian” surpasses expectations for sci-fi movies


Photo by Alex O'Gorman

Story by Jillian Cheney, Entertainment editor

Alien life. Ray guns. Teleportation. A parallel timeline that gives all power to the protagonist. Sci-fi movies have all these things that “The Martian” did not.

Actually, it can be said that “The Martian” was not science fiction at all, and was in fact a refreshing change from what’s typical for movies set in space. The movie is focused on one of a series of manned missions to Mars NASA is heading in the hypothetical near future.

Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and her crew are forced to abort the mission halfway through the planned duration due to an unexpected storm. They’re forced to leave crew member Mark Watney (Matt Damon) behind when they believe he has been killed by flying debris. At this point, Watney is left alive and stranded on Mars, and the movie then follows his journey of survival and the efforts made by NASA members to bring him back to Earth.

There are a number of things that contribute to make this film a thoroughly enjoyable one.

The direction and filming adds to the suspense in a way that might (will most definitely) have you on the edge of your seat, flailing, or grabbing your neighbor’s hand for reassurance – yes, even if he’s a total stranger.

A number of classic “danger in space” scenes are drawn out in the most pleasantly torturing way by switching back and forth between Watney on Mars and the mission control team on Earth, and the comedic scenes when the two groups are incorporated seamlessly into the severity of the situations in the film, and they give audience members a minute to breathe before Watney nearly dies again.

Damon makes the film even more fantastic with his portrayal of stranded astronaut Mark Watney. He’s hilariously sarcastic when he wants to be– which is most of the time, actually– but has a few down-to-earth moments through the movie that really give the character depth grow exponentially and speak to true human nature. From any other actor, the movie wouldn’t be as humorous or as heartbreaking.

Though it isn’t common knowledge, no film is as good as its score, especially when it comes to movies about outer space. Composers have an advantage when it comes to this particular theme of movie because there are so many special effects that can be used to make the listener feel as if he or she is actually in space. The soundtrack, composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, does not disappoint, and is both haunting and awe-inspiring at the perfect moments. As does  John Williams’ score in Jaws, the music predicts and heightens some of the scenes with higher adrenaline.

If a film score isn’t quite good enough, perhaps the frequent uses of disco will be. As Watney is left stranded on Mars, all the music he has to listen to comes from Captain Lewis- who exclusively listens to music from the 1970s. It’s woven in well with the storyline and transitions of the movie, and used again so Watney can make a few jokes at the music’s expense.

The Martian somehow blended a multitude of genres successfully so that no one overpowered the other, and they all contributed to the story in a way that kept me and everyone else on the edge of their seat for two and a half hour. Right now, there’s no movie in the theater more worth seeing.