The Martian (2015)

In 2013 we were given Cuaron’s Gravity and in 2014 we were given Nolan’s Interstellar. This year, 2015 brings us Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which arguably is the most enjoyable yet!

When astronauts on the planet Mars get caught in a fierce storm, they flee in fear of their lives and leave behind crewmate Mark Watney (Matt Damon),who is presumed dead. With only a tiny amount of supplies, Watney must utilize his wits and his intelligence as a botanist and a scientist to “science the shit out of this” so to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates have other ideas to rescue him.

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With cinema continuing for a third year with the theme of space, The Martian has many parallels to it predecessors. Firstly, it had big name director Ridley Scott at the helm and, like Gravity and Interstellar, the film will probably go on to be nominated for some Academy Awards for it’s technical achievements but perhaps a Best Director or a Best Film too that Interstellar missed out on (which was criminal). Secondly, it has taken the strongest elements of both previous films and combined them. Gravity was successful partly because of it’s simple format and strong lead, as it was practically a one woman Sandra Bullock driven show. Interstellar was memorable for it’s indescribable visuals and aesthetic and it’s crazy scientific talk. The Martian combines both of these strengths: an engaging lead, with Matt Damon in many lonesome scenes setting a lighter tone, and beautiful awe-inspiring visuals to create a brilliant hybrid.

The third parallel is that The Martian starred Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, who both were two starring cast members in Interstellar. And Matt Damon is once again stranded and needs to be saved. At least he was a less cowardly scheming git this time. Oh and this is the third feature film where the U.S. has to fork out to save Matt Damon from jeopardy. Just saying.

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I may joke and quibble but actually I’m being unfair. Matt Damon was incredibly compelling as astronaut and botanist Mark Watney. For someone who has been left on Mars, he was actually incredibly relaxed about the whole thing, and he had fantastic comic timing. But Damon let’s you see right through this persona on occasion, and you catch a glimpse of Watney’s vulnerability. The fact that he talks to the camera the whole time, and becomes quite attached to this and the rover that transports him, like they are living creatures. Or when he constantly jokes to hide the fact that he’s probably truly terrified. But in typical Ridley Scott style, the hero is brave, throws their-selves in and is not afraid of death (similar to Russell Crowe’s Gladiator and Siguorney Weaver’s Alien).

I feel though, that with so many characters and a star studded cast, some were underused. Chastain is second on the cast list bill, as Commander Lewis, but we don’t see her much until the end, or her crew either (Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Askel Hennie). The back and forth with NASA too is similar to the script’s pacing of one-liners and charming characters. Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels are excellent, but again, none particularly stood out in terms of character development: they are all incredibly clever but all a bit nice.

Other than this, The Martian is still really enjoyable, is not short on laughs, visuals or drama. It’s light-hearted and thrilling at the same time, and, again, made me realise further just how dangerous and scary space really is. What surprises me though is still, after all these perilous space movies, I still really really want to go!

The Martian is in cinemas now!

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Interstellar (2014)

Christopher Nolan’s visually beautiful, mystical and terrifying interpretation of space, ‘Interstellar’ tells the story of astronauts race to the other end of the galaxy and through a wormhole in search of a new habitable planet for a human race dying out and against the clock. The story is intense, the film is astonishing and visuals are impressive, as well as the film’s scary scientific accuracy.

Christopher Nolan directs and writes, alongside brother Jonathan, this epic affair. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA pilot and widowed father, who looks after his 10 year old daughter Murphy (a brilliant Mackenzie Foy), teenage son Tom and lives with his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow) in a future world where Earth is failing. His curiosity leads him to a secret NASA installation lead by Professor Brand (Michael Caine). After explaining that twelve astronauts were sent on ‘Lazarus’ missions through a wormhole to find potential habitable planets, they recruit Cooper to join their team, including Brand’s own daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), to try and fulfil their task of reaching the only three potential choices of these planets and re-homing the human race.

Seems complicated right? Well it’s really not, meaning if I can understand it, you can! For me, the concept was simple, because it’s something I think about occasionally; the human race will have to be re-homed in the future to come. For me, the story is realistic and obvious. And scary too. At the end of the day, humans chosen for this task such as Cooper and Amelia are not machines, they have emotional attachments like love and family. Cooper is driven by trying to save and see his family again. As much as you want to save everyone else, selfishness and survival instinct can take over. One man’s act of cowardice or bravery can mean the difference- in this case the survival of the human race and Nolan often reminds you of this.

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The first two thirds of the film are truly magnificent and are so visually stunning to the point you want to cry! Moments to look out for are the movie’s interpretation of a black hole, the scariness of space time relativity and gigantic waves. Nolan has created a work of art as well as something incredibly character driven and with a clever plot, that builds tension, drama and grips you to the edge of your seat, something that I felt ‘Gravity’ lacked. Something else ‘Gravity’ lacked is an amazing soundtrack! The music is magical, loud and mystical, which is a pure interpretation of space and often reminded me of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells.’ At points the soundtrack is ear-splitting and overpowering that it dominates moments, often making unimportant dialogue inaudible. But I felt this added to the atmosphere and realism particularly at moments of utter peril, chaos and stress.

The final third matches the start but reveals two twists in the story, that of course every Nolan film must have and complete with conviction. The first development, involving a character named Mann (you could interpret the name as important and ironic here), is smart and shocking like a twist should be. Similar to ‘Moon’, the twist is surprising and creates a problem, that could give the film a morose and unsatisfactory ending. The second twist, tying up loose ends and answers any questions you have, creates the ending. For me, I found it a little silly and disappointing, but then you have to respect the fact it is emotional, links well with the start and almost feel good.

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Matthew McConaughey is superb and Anne Hathaway is on par with him and matches his performance, so joining this with the visuals and sound makes ‘Interstellar’ a thrilling watch! Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Wes Bentley and Casey Affleck prove to be a formidable supporting cast. Also a massive shout out to the awesome robots Tars and Case too.

Let us hope in the future years to come, when our planet confronts this problem, the chosen intelligent few to complete this mission are as brave as the characters in this film. But these are actors and a screenplay and a camera, what is to come has to be acted for real.

‘Interstellar’ is in cinemas now.

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