Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Martian

The number of posts I make on this blog has dwindled in the past two years.  I attribute that to my attention and energy being focused elsewhere.  My posting here is inversely proportional to the concern I had for my father who was a nonagenerian and suffering from advancing dementia.  He passed away a few months ago so when I finish closing out his estate, my time & attention should be freed up to focus on this blog.  We'll see if I find as much satisfaction with writing on this blog as I did before.

The Martian holds the distinction of being the first film I saw in Las Vegas after my father's death.  I saw it in 3D as well.

The Martian
starring Matt Damon; with Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean & Chiwetel Ejiofor; directed by Ridley Scott; (2015) - Official Website

I loved The Martian.  The premise is that in the near future, an astronaut (Matt Damon) is left for dead on a manned mission to Mars.  In fact, he was wounded but survived.  The rest of the mission crew are on their way back to earth and Mark Watney (Damon) has no way to communicate with the crew or NASA on Earth.  The film meticulously shows how Watney survives.  He grows potatoes, communicates his existence to Earth and eventually formulates a plan for rescue.  The plot spans a year or more and Damon undergoes a remarkable physical transformation although I wonder much was CGI.

Based on Andy Weir's novel of the same name, The Martian appealed to my inner geek.  I'm not an astronaut or a botanist (like Watney) nor have I ever worked for NASA but I have engineering degrees.  The Martian tapped into a basic fear - abandonment, isolation, loneliness & the will to survive.  The film emphasizes the science and logistics more than the existential angst but it's a film about an astronaut not a philosopher.  In fact, by leaving the inner turmoil of Watney largely unexplored, The Martian is like those old-school films where those types of emotions are not addressed directly.  Noir films did this a lot.  Films like The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle focused on the planning & execution of the heist not the neuroses of the characters.  Modern films have a tendency to overplay the emotional aspects vis-à-vis "real life" or at least my real life.

As I get older, I find that I enjoy songs which I didn't enjoy originally.  I'm old enough to recall the disco era and I did not like those songs at the time but now when I hear certain songs, I go crazy for them.  One of the plot devices in The Martian is that Watney has access to the other astronauts' computer files.  The only music available are the disco songs the mission commander selected.  Sprinkled throughout the film are these disco era anthems including Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," Donna Summers' "Hot Stuff" and others.  Although the musical selection is played for laughs in the film, I was thinking "I'd like to have this soundtrack."

The Martian has an impressive supporting cast which are too numerous to expand on.  I was impressed by Jeff Daniels as the NASA director and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mars program director.

This autumn boasts a larger than usual batch of general release films which I want to see.  In addition to The Martian, I'm anxious to see Spectre, Spotlight, Creed, Star Wars and The Hateful Eight.  I hope they are all as entertaining as The Martian.

I saw The Martian at a Century Theater on a Tuesday night.  Films were $5 all day at that location.  I recall that being the case at another theater in Las Vegas.  Is that true of all Century/Cinemark Theaters in the US or more specifically the Bay Area?  It's kind of amazing to think I have never gone to a Century Theater on a Tuesday in over 20 years of living in the Bay Area.

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