So far on this year’s road to the Oscars we’ve seen an immigrant’s tale in “Brooklyn,” and the “The Big Short” on Wall Street. Today, we’re going a bit further with a little science fiction and a whole lot of inspiration from “The Martian.”
Regular crusaders will remember Zer’s fantastic review of “The Martian” back in October when the film was first released. So I’ll spare you too much exposition where the plot is concerned. Here’s the abbreviated version: Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left for dead (not an unreasonable assumption) on Mars by his crew. What follows is a whole lot of science, humor, perseverance, and inspiration.
What struck me immediately about this movie is the closing gap between this story as science fiction and our science reality, but last year, when it was nominated for a Golden Globe as a comedy, the conversation veered towards whether it was a comedy.
Now that it’s up for best picture at the Oscars, what’s become more significant is the fact that it was a box office success. “The Martian” along with “Mad Max: Fury Road” are two rare best picture nods that a lot of people actually saw. This crossover between pop culture and award winning films is a surprise and a delight. I’m not saying all blockbusters are of award-winning caliber, but success at the box office shouldn’t disqualify them.
Back to the point about comedy, I admit, I was on the fence, a bit, but I think the folks who were truly hung up on the technicality sort of missed the point of this movie. First of all, this movie is undeniably funny at points, but what’s truly significant are the situations in which that humor arises. This is a man who is stuck hundreds of millions of miles from home, likely facing his own demise, but can still laugh at the fact that he’s growing potatoes in soil composed mostly of his own and that of his long-gone crew mates’ feces (let’s be honest, they’re poop potatoes) and whose only form of entertainment is disco music. Those moments of laughter in the face of otherwise dire circumstances is what makes this not just a great sci-fi film, but also a great story.
Obviously, with the amount of time we spend with him, this movie could not work without an incredible performance from Matt Damon. While his crew heads back to Earth (thinking he’s lost) and those back on Earth are figuring out how to get Watney back home, he’s rocking out to Abba and science-ing the crap out of an impossible situation, while maintaining a sense of humor. Mr. Damon’s direct delivery pulls no punches and his movie long series of monologues/video diaries never gets trying or tired.
Finally, and this goes without saying in my mind, but the visual effects in this film are incredible. It’s just a beautiful film, that’s well done on every front. If you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it enough. Even if you don’t usually follow the nominated movies, this is one to see. Will it win? Probably not. Although as the Golden Globe winner for best comedy it’s definitely in the running. Win or lose, it’s proof that there is room for blockbusters at the Oscars (every now and then).