Quick Review: The Martian


Found time to watch the movie finally yesterday. I think of movies as vistas of imagination, a bundle of concentrated creativity of people whose business it is to astound and to surprise. And in that respect alone, I found the movie entertaining, exciting, inspiring, mystifying and thought provoking. A lot of “ing” there but none misplaced. What I liked the most about the movie – the predictability notwithstanding (after all, with all this effort, Matt Damon was always going to come back) –  is that there is a clear thrust towards making light of an extreme situation and of investing in the ideas of science to that of the survival instincts of man.

Survival instincts are great and inspirational. But to laugh in the face of extreme odds defines what you stand for. It’s one thing to “science the shit out of” something. Its quite another to understand the odds that are stacked against you and not yield still to the gigantic and unwieldy wall.

It’s further amazing to understand how much a ‘sense of accomplishment’ can drive your ability to survive. “The only man to live alone in a planet”, “the only man to have walked on that hill there”, “the first man to colonize Mars”, “the space iron man”, “the space pirate”, “the fastest flying man on space” – they are, in the end, epithets only but the whole history of mankind is driven by our desire to chase these titles and revel at it. The progress we see around us is as much due to the recognition the society awarded to these trailblazers as much as it was the eccentrics themselves.

Men thrive in high-pressure situations. So much of the technological progress around us is a direct result of our “need” for it. Be it the Botanist or the Rocket propulsion team at NASA, breakthroughs were possible because these men were pushed towards it. One was motivated to be able to live, the others were motivated by their shared sense of empathy and of human bonding.

What ensues on that distant, desolate planet isn’t so much different from what humans faced in the very beginning. In the end, its our ability to face the “reality” as it is that helps us live and survive. The sheer banality of some of the situations out there at Mars, as Mars goes about trying to eke out a living, is refreshingly slow and takes place at a guided pace. What separates The Martian from the other space movies that has dominated conversations off late is it deals not with the overpowering vastness of the world around us but with the ingenuity and the deftness that is man’s survival instincts. There is a sense of measured distance from the idea of pushing Mark to where he is in the bigger scheme of things. In some ways, it is more connected to the world as we know it as compared to the transcendent and often times “spiritual” leanings of movies like “Gravity” or “Interstellar”.

Thumbs up to the director Ridley Scott. I could see shades of Prometheus (Ridley produced the movie) somewhere even as the movie avoids the bigger philosophical question (why are we here?) for the sake of the more practical and empirical principle of survival.


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