In your face, Johnny Appleseed.
October kicks off with a bang, as Ridley Scott delivers his best film since Gladiator. Novelist Andy Weir debuted with one of the most exciting stories of the past few years. The novel is so good I want to encourage you to take the time to read it before seeing the film, but the sci-fi blockbuster is too good to pass up. Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut left for dead on the red planet. Relying upon his admittedly vast scientific knowledge, Watney attempts to survive until NASA can come get him… several years later.
The Cabin in the Woods’ Drew Goddard carefully adapts Weir’s novel, excising several of its complications, which would only have made the film longer, not stronger. The sense of humor is smartly maintained, and Damon has the proper combination of brains and wit. Scientists gushed about the scientific accuracy of Weir’s novel and now the film, but most moviegoers will not even notice. I have certainly suspended my disbelief for much more outlandish sci-fi fare.
But Scott’s film has so much humanity. From the NASA suits and minds (including Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover) to Watney’s fellow astronauts (a strong team led by Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña and Kate Mara), people care about bringing him home. And so will the audience. As awe-inspiring as the faux-Martian landscape and space FX are, the film never forgets it is ultimately about saving a human being, not constantly putting him into realistically depicted danger.