Ina and I went to see 'The Martian' at the local cinema yesterday. I haven't read the book (though it may well be my sort of thing) and the director, Ridley Scott, is someone about whom I am very, very ambivalent; all of his pictures are ravishingly shot, but he seems to loathe science and logic and historical research (or he picks screenwriters who do.) I still think Alien
his best movie, but I am one of the two people in the world who dislikes every single cut of Blade Runner
(the other one is my housemate, inamac
), whose DVD index labels Black Hawk Down
as CBATF (Can't be arsed to finish), and who put her foot down after Robin Hood
(which Ina forced me to watch) as "No more Scott pseudo-historicals, please
." This may be a little hypocritical of me, because I really liked Gladiator
and Kingdom of Heaven
despite being full of bad history and so placed them in an 'alternate universe' category.
But the reviews said this was Scott's best movie in years, that it was clever and funny and, save for some named exceptions, scientifically accurate and that Matt Damon, of whom I am fond, was brilliant in it. Ina and I rarely have the same taste in movies, though I have learned to trust her judgement about some movies she walks out on (and am trusting it completely about The Man from UNCLE
) but this time she wanted to see it too. (I suspect this was because there were not going to be any long fight/sex sequences in it and no big robots bashing each other.)
She didn't walk out. She didn't go to sleep. Her only complaint was that she couldn't hear some of the dialogue, which seeing as she had deliberately left her hearing aid at home...
And me? I loved it to bits. It reminded me forcefully of why I have always loved 'hard' science fiction - I am pretty sure that people like John W. Campbell Jr and Hal Clement would have adored it too. And the protagonist, Mark Watney, is surely a good example of Heinlein's 'competent man.' It is tense, interesting and often very funny and the Martian landscapes are stunningly portrayed.
On the other hand, if you are not interested in watching brilliant minds 'science their way out of this' then forget it. There is one action sequence towards the end, and another features one the acknowledged scientific inaccuracies - the force of a Martian wind - but without that one there would be no story. (And if, like Mark Watney, you hate 'disco' music, then you might well dislike the sound track, though the sound of rockets taking off shakes your seat superbly.)( Spoilers, sweetieCollapse )
Though most of the acting is competent enough, it is Damon who carries it on his shoulders, and it would take a real effort of will not to engage with his humour, his cheerfulness and his struggle to survive. But this is science
fiction, which has always been the fiction of ideas, and it is the science and engineering that drive The Martian.
Don't look for mental breakdowns, cheesy love stories, parent/child angst or eye-rollingly bad philosophy (and yes, Interstellar
I'm looking at you) because you won't find those things (or bookcases on the other side of a Black Hole - sheesh!)
This is a fun
movie! The new Star Wars
movie is going to have to be very, very good indeed to beat it to the Hugo.