Left behind by crew members who thought him dead, the hero of “The Martian” (played by Matt Damon) is an astronaut abandoned on a planet with no water, no vegetation and no hope of any help coming for years. The air can’t be breathed, the temperatures can’t be endured and he can’t even contact Earth to let them know he’s alive. He’s utterly abandoned, the only living being on a desolate desert planet 140 million miles from civilization.
Beat that, Bear Grylls!
How can he possibly survive?
To quote our hero, he’s going to have to “science the s— out of this.”
What ensues is a movie that’s tense, surprisingly exciting and entertaining. It’s also confusing at times and sloppily made in spots, but I don’t think audiences will care, because a charismatic hero and the desperate drama of the plot add up to a great date-night movie.
As for the “science” the astronaut uses, there are many moments when amateur scientists and survivalists will enjoy guessing his next move and marveling at his ingenuity. At other moments, you don’t have to be smarter than a 5th grader to know the “science” is preposterous and would never actually work (a tarp and bungee cords flying through the Martian atmosphere at 12 Gs? I don’t think so).
But for those who can suspend disbelief and avoid nitpicking for a couple of hours, “The Martian” delivers beautiful imagery, solid acting, just the right amount of humor, and plenty of drama. It’s a fun film your friends will probably be recommending.
As for the worldview, however, any film or project involving Matt Damon, an actor farther “out there” in leftist lunacy than his character is “out there” in space, is suspect. For this project, he thankfully tones it down, so just about anyone can still enjoy the film.
The movie does include some humanist leanings: the idea that science can solve anything, a brief inference that all religions are the same and some globalist Kumbaya moments, including a line about “all the greatest minds on earth” working together. There is definitely a theme of saving yourself and celebrating human ingenuity.
There’s also a scene in the film that could be a symbolic, snide dig at Christianity, when Damon has to find something combustible and burns a crucifix a fellow crewmember had in his personal belongings. It’s not a major theme, but it does leave the audience wondering what exactly the director meant by it (good thing he didn’t burn a Koran!).
The movie also has some strong, positive examples of self-sacrifice, perseverance and heroism, so it’s not all a bad lot.
In the end, “The Martian” is an enjoyable film for the discerning moviegoer, but not one I’d necessarily recommend to the wider culture.
Damon’s character himself sums up the reason for my hesitancy.
“If you solve enough problems, you get to come home,” he says toward the end of the film.
But that’s just it – there are some problems humans can’t solve, no matter how much they “science the s— out of it.” And “The Martian” masquerades the belief that science and humanity alone can bring us home.
No, for that we need a Savior.
- “The Martian,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 40 obscenities and profanities.
- The film contains some minor sexuality – mostly innuendo or lewd comments and a brief kiss – but some nudity, including the male hero shirtless in a few scenes and completely nude from the rear, showing his emaciated body. The astronaut also encounters a computer file called “Leather Goddesses of Phobos,” though what exactly that is isn’t revealed.
- The film has some peril, explosions, frightening moments, and some gore – particularly in a scene where the astronaut has to operated on himself – but no physical or gun violence.
- The movie has a few religious references, including a crucifix that is burned for fuel (the astronaut talks to the crucified Jesus figure, saying, “I figure you’re going to be fine with this in my given situation”), a mention of being “blessed,” and a discussion in which one man asks, “Do you believe in God?” “My father was a Hindu and mother a Baptist. I believe in several,” replies the second. “We’ll take all of that we can get,” responds the first.