What if all astronauts were sexy redheads or lovable, wise-cracking goofballs? That’s the question posed by Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which takes all the least challenging parts of Gravity and Interstellar and cuts them into one long rah-rah sizzle reel for NASA (no shame in that game, “bring back NASA” is a perfectly admirable goal).
We’d all like to see ourselves as hilarious geniuses, quipping in the face of death, boldly facing the unknown, able to improvise our way out of any problem, and curiously devoid of unsightly body hair, no matter how many months we’ve spent stranded on an alien planet without a razor. The Martian is an unabashed attempt to fulfill that wish. And who better to play a glib genius than Matt Damon? It’s a fine, breezy watch, only occasionally groanworthy, and the deepest thought I had on the way out was whether it should be called “Sasstronauts” or “Good Will Spacing.”
Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, and Jessi Chastain (Zero Mars Thirty?) play the Mars exploration crew, who in the first scene get hit by a freak storm. Matt Damon gets bonked by some space stuff, and his suit’s alive-detection thingamajig gets merc’d. Presuming him dead, they tearfully f*ck off back to Earth (“I’ll miss that hilarious hairless son of a bitch,” they probably thought) leaving him to fend for himself for the forseeable future, without so much as a saucy robot to keep him company.
The situation is dire. It will take four years for a rescue or supply mission to reach him, and he only has enough food for a month. And that’s assuming no more freak storms (a threat that curiously vanishes after the first ten minutes of the movie). Luckily, Damon’s character is a sh*t-hot botanist who could grow potatoes in your mom if he wanted to, capable of MacGyvering up a greenhouse using nothing but sports bras and spent condoms. Every time he conquers a new challenge, he brags about it to the camera like Tom Hanks making fire in Castaway. You go, Matt Damon! Make space your bitch!
It’s essentially two hours of:
“Houston, we have a problem…”
“Actually, it’s worse than that. In fact, here is a power point presentation I made about how all hope is lost and we’re all definitely doomed.”
(*grave faces all around, close-up of Jeff Daniels looking constipated*)
“So… I guess it’s settled then.”
(*guy in the back of the room raises his hand*)
“Quirky Young Maverick, how the hell did you get in here? I thought we fired you months ago for skateboarding in the beaker room. (*presses button*) Security!”
“Hold on, sir, let’s hear him out. I… I think we owe it to Matt Damon, sir.”
“God dammit, Jenkins, I hate when you’re right. Maverick, spit it out. You’ve got two minutes before Matt Damon’s chest hair grows out, so make it snappy.”