Left behind on Mars as dead, astronaut Mark Watney isn’t.
And so, faced with scant food rations, among his many woes, the American astronaut goes botanist bonzai, using his wits and intelligence to come up with a way to grow a crop in, well, his own crap.
That leads him to the second-best line of the movie, as Watney boasts that he’s the best botanist on the planet. Indeed. But the finest line that comes out of Mark Damon’s mouth in this sci-fi adventure written for the screen from the novel by Andy Weir is this: I’ll just science the s**t out of it. Put in the hands of director Ridley Scott, all of this — faraway planet, man on a solitary mission, mountain of dilemmas if not insurmountable surely inconceivable — makes for one gripping tale. All 2 hours, 22 minutes of it had the Saturday matinée crowd at the Regal Cinemas’ big theater in Syracuse mall Shoppingtown at constant high alert.
Of, if only the real space program were to gain such attention and affection these days. Oh, wait. NASA wouldn’t want this type of tension and possible calamity for a manned program to Mars, now would it?
Damon surely makes the most of his role’s moments on Mars. Many days — or sols, as they’re called up there — roll by as the astronaut works the gadgets and figures the percentages and refuses to give up.
On earth, NASA officials scramble and hopes and fight amongst themselves to come up with the right steps. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels clash and reconcile and conjur as Vincent Kapoor and his boss Teddy Sanders, the highest rankers who play the game and take the blame as the spokeswoman played very seriously be Kristen Wiig tries to make all of this palatable to the public. In space, the fellow astronauts on his mission get over their guilt and surprise at the delayed news that he’s alive. Jessica Chastain as Commander Melissa Lewis is always intense and on top of her diverse and smart crew. Wiig looks slightly uncomfortable without any comic touches in her wheelhouse, and Daniels’ makes his NASA chief come off very much like his achor role in HBO’s now-gone The Newsroom, without any of the endearing quirks.
Small complaints, those, because Damon pulls them all together as his Mark Watney grows food, a beard and ways to get from there to here that any space program anywhere would love.
Do you pay attention to our world’s real space explorations these days? Do you want to put people on Mars? What’s your favorite space movie, and why?