By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' is fantastic, and a lot funnier than you'd expect
Annie Montrose (Kristin Wiig), NASAs media relations director, and NASAs Director of Mars missions, Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), do everything they can to bring home an astronaut stranded on Mars in "The Martian." - photo by Josh Terry
If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

That simple line of dialogue underscores the simple theme behind The Martian, Ridley Scotts gripping and surprisingly funny outer-space drama about an astronaut marooned on Mars.

The astronaut is Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a botanist sent along on one of a series of Mars expeditions. When an unexpected storm forces his team to evacuate, Watney is left behind and presumed dead after a piece of debris terminates his life support signal.

Once Watney comes around and discovers his predicament, he resolves to survive. He converts the abandoned ground station into a greenhouse, hoping to generate enough food to survive until the next expedition arrives.

In the meantime, satellite surveillance tells NASA its astronaut is still alive. While Watney is fighting for survival, NASA chief Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Mars mission boss Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) fight to find a way to get him home, all while Watneys crew, led by Capt. Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), continue to fly home unaware.

Its amusing to note the connection to Interstellar, where Damon played another astronaut marooned on a remote planet. But The Martian echoes plenty of other sci-fi landmarks, especially 2001: A Space Odyssey. Calling it Cast Away" on Mars may be reductive, but its also pretty accurate.

To Scotts credit, he never allows Martian to feel too derivative of its cinematic echoes, mostly because of the personality he injects through Damon.

The Martian seems to be 2015s entry in the recent tradition of releasing a big-budget outer-space epic every fall, and audiences may expect a sweeping, self-serious human drama. But unlike 2013s Gravity and last years Interstellar, The Martian leans hard on an irreverent sense of humor, and Damon is at the center of it. (Lord of the Rings fans should be on the watch for one inside joke in particular).

There is definitely an emphasis on the scientific process, as Damons character uses his ingenuity to grow food, modify vehicles and re-establish interplanetary communication with the folks back home.

But audiences should know that the film exists in the action/adventure sphere just as comfortably as it does in science fiction. That isnt to say The Martian is Armageddon 2, but it will be interesting to see how much of Damons hip-to-2015 dialogue feels dated in a few years.

To Damons credit, it takes a special kind of actor to anchor this kind of movie, and his personality goes a long way to maintain The Martians fun factor. But some of Damons most effective moments come as Watney is combating discouragement. At one moment in the film, Watney is forced to use a thin plastic tarp to fix a gaping hole in the station. As he tries to remain calm while the deadly Martian atmosphere whips at his minimal protection, Damons subtle performance is easily at its most effective.

As you might expect, the visuals are incredible. (The Martian is available in 3-D, but the film looks great either way.) But Scott wisely allows them to complement the story rather than dominate every frame.

Its an impressive creative effort on every count, and one well worth the full price of a ticket. In fact, the creativity even extends to the films rating. Many suspected the profanity in author Andy Weirs source material would lead to an R rating on the big screen, but cinematic sleight of hand has managed to get Martian in under the PG-13 threshold, if just barely.

Aside from the aforementioned profanity, The Martian also draws its rating from action violence and gore, as well as some partial male nudity.