The Martian

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

And I’m really not sure if it’s worth me going through the trouble of writing this review. I mean…this is for The Martian. THE MARTIAN! Everyone loves this film–critics, audiences, even me. I just feel like, whatever I end up saying, it’ll already have been said before. Whatever thoughts, or opinions I might have on the picture, they’ll probably just sound redundant.

But, then again, when have I ever been one to not share my thoughts or opinions on a subject? Never. That’s when. And I’m not going to make an exception here. So, with all that out of the way, here are my thoughts, both good and bad, on The Martian.

Let’s start off with the good. First of all, this movie has a lot of great humor in it. Yeah, the story of an astronaut getting stranded on Mars might not sound like a particularly laugh out loud situation, but there are actually several extremely hilarious moments in this film. This is due, in no small part, to Matt Damon’s portrayal of Mark Watney, the astronaut trapped on Mars. He brings an energy and a wit to the role that are just brilliant. The second thing that’s great about this movie is the acting, period. Everyone in this film–from the people back on Earth, to Matt Damon’s old crew–deliver terrific performances. And, in case you didn’t know already, this movie has a completely star-studded cast. Sean Bean, Chiwatel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastane, Kristen Wig, Michael Pena, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover–these are just a few of the familiar faces that pop up in this movie, and that do terrific jobs. The third thing that’s great about this film is the effects. There were points in this movie where I legitimately thought that the crew had gone to Mars to shoot. In reality, they shot everything on a sound stage in Hungary, and a desert in Jordan, but that’s not the point. The point is that the filmmakers were able to successfully craft, and sustain, an illusion, and for that, I think they deserve praise.

Now let’s go for the bad. What? There are actually things that I don’t like a bout this movie? Yes, believe it or not, there are. For starters, other than the decision to set this film on Mars, there’s nothing particularly original about it. It’s a generic “stranded man in shark infested waters” story that’s been told a million times before, in Films like Cast Away, Life Of Pi, and Gravity. In addition, as much as I liked seeing all these stars in one movie, it did get a little overwhelming at points. I lost track of who was supposed to be who, and it honestly felt like the filmmakers were trying to squeeze in as many celebrities as possible, and without giving any real thought as to what these people should be doing. But perhaps the greatest problem I have with this picture is something that most people–or at least, people who aren’t as sensitive to issues of race as me–would be able to pick up on. That is the fact that the story revolves around an entire planet, Earth, working to save the life of a White man, Damon. I hate to say this, but, had Damon’s character been any other race–had he been Black, Latino, or especially Asian–the studio would never have green lit this project. And that infuriates me. Why is it that, in media, the lives of Whites are seen as more important than others? Why is it that Hollywood deems Mark Watney more worthy of saving than Mark Wong, Mark Sanchez, or Mark Patel? Why is it that, in a movie with so many talented non-White actors–Chiwatel Ejiofor, Michael Pena, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, Naomi Scott–all the focus is placed on a White star? Have Hollywood executives never read online comments? Have they never seen the countless posts, blogs, and videos lampooning them for their racism?

(Pauses and takes a breath.)

But, all that aside, I did still enjoy The Martian, and I would still recommend you go see it. I’ve come to learn that most people just don’t care as much about originality or racial sensitivity as me, so, odds are, if you watch the Martian, you won’t be put off by those things. And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really that put off by them either when I was watching the film. It’s still very enjoyable. It’s an 8 out of 10. Give it a look.


2 thoughts on “The Martian

  1. Hey brother,

    Great review, enjoyed reading it and agree with you on most points.

    You wrote one thing that brought something to mind that I wanted to share.

    “…other than the decision to set this film on Mars, there’s nothing particularly original about it. It’s a generic ‘stranded man in shark infested waters’ story that’s been told a million times before, in Films like Cast Away, Life Of Pi, and Gravity.”

    I interviewed George Lucas a few years ago and he said something interesting: there are only 32 stories that exist. Therefore, you’re never going to be original in the story you tell, only in the way you tell it.

    He said how Star Wars was far from an original story; it’s essentially a western. Only set in space. And that hadn’t really been done before. That’s a really interesting way to think about it. If you look at Avatar, there’s nothing original about the story, right? It’s Pocahontas combined with Dances with Wolves and a few other films. But no one had ever told that story the way James Cameron did in Avatar, regardless of whether or not you liked that movie. The Fast & the Furious was Point Break, beat for beat, with race cars instead of surf boards.

    But one of those 32 stories is definitely the “stranded man in shark infested waters,” or, like Blake Snyder called it in his book, “Dude with a Problem,” where a regular guy is thrust into an impossible situation and fights like hell to make it home alive. This story resonates with us because survival is a basic human instinct, and we all like to believe we’re “regular people” and we also want to believe that we have the strength to make it out of bad situations, which is why we root for those kinds of characters.

    When you mention films like Cast Away, Life of Pie, and Gravity, those are pretty great movies (with Gravity being arguable; it had its problems). But if you think about it, each of those movies told that generic story in a particular, original way (especially Life of Pi, which was great filmmaking in and of itself). All three movies, along with The Martian, worked and were successful because the filmmakers told that story RIGHT. In each of those stories, the characters were thrust into the situation not by their own choice, and then fought like hell to live.

    Everest, for instance, the new movie with Jason Clarke, tried to tell this story but it failed (in my opinion) precisely because it didn’t follow these “rules” (or guidelines). The characters there were not thrust unwillingly into the situation, they put themselves there for a reason that’s never sufficiently explained to the audience, and then they don’t really fight to live; they lay down and die, because that’s how hypothermia works.

    My point is, all movies can be divided into about 10-15 story lines, and they are not original stories. But they are good stories that can work if done well. And the originality of the movie comes not from the original premise line, not from WHAT the movie is about, but from HOW it’s about it, how it’s told in a way that hasn’t been done before.

    It could very well be that The Martian still doesn’t hold up to originality in that sense, but this is all something to keep in mind moving forward with writing and watching.

    Looking forward to the next review,


    • Hey Omri!

      Thanks for reading my review. I see what you’re saying about nothing being truly original, and I agree with the notion that is is not the premise of a story that is important, but rather, how that story is told that matters. For instance, Drive, a movie I reviewed in an earlier post, has the same basic plot as Blood Diamond, Gran Torino, and District 9–crook finds redemption through helping others–but still managed to be a great film through the manner in which it executed that plot. It’s totally fine to have an unoriginal idea. Just use it in an original way. That’s fine, but that’s not the main problem I had with the Martian.

      The main issue I had with the picture is that it is a story of the whole world working to save a White man, which, if you ask me, is highly emblematic of the troubling way Hollywood views the world. To them, the only people worth saving and worth watching are White, and that just isn’t true. Audiences nowadays want to see more diverse heroes. They want to have protagonists who aren’t your typical bland straight White People. They want to see different groups and peoples represented in non-stereotypical, and non-supporting ways. Films like The Last Airbender, Exodus and Pan bombed precisely because of the fact that all the heroes were White, while shows like Fresh Off The Boat, Sense8, How To Get Away With Murder, and Transparent became successful because they were willing to take risks with the characters they wrote and the actors that they cast. The Martian just feels too safe, too standard. There’s a handsome White star in the lead, and yeah, there are a few people of color in the background, but they don’t really matter. They’re just there to make the story a little bit more universal seeming. All I’m saying is that, if Ridley Scot, whom also did Exodus, would just accept the fact that the world he grew up in doesn’t exist anymore, and that audiences are open-minded and accepting enough to see non-White, non-hetereosexual people as heroes, and responded accordingly, life would be better.

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