A pitch for the feel good science movie of the year

The Martian“I loved it, I really loved it.” Michele Stern while walking out of the theater
“I’m goin’ to have to science the shit out of this.” Astronaut Mark Watney

Michele and I saw The Martian, by director Ridley Scott, last Friday night and we both loved it. I loved it because it is a visual delight – like most of Scott’s movies – and I loved it because I want to love Scott’s movies. This is the first Science Fiction movie that I can think of that really has science at its core. By that I mean all the science in it is real. The movie is also bright, cheery, and often funny; a feel good science movie that takes place in a near future in which science and NASA are well funded (that is the fiction part).

Even without this movie, Ridley Scott is one of my favorite movie directors. He can build a densely layered photographic picture better than anybody (and it is a moving picture, after all).  Scott started his career in TV advertising where the budget per minute is usually much higher than a movie and that density of detail, that voluptuousness of the image, is one of his hallmarks. He packs the frame with such care that even his bad movies are visually interesting. The overall cheer of The Martian surprised me a little because I think of Scott’s movies as usually brooding and atmosphericly dark and, even, somewhat nihilistic like Blade Runner or Alien or one of my very favorite movies, The Duelists.   

But what makes me want to like Scott is his strong feminist credentials. He is the producer of The Good Wife, he directed G.I. Jane and Thelma and Louise, and Ripley is one of moviedom’s most memorable heroes. In The Martian, Matt Damon is the center of the story, but the mission commander is Jessica Chastain. There are more women and actors of color, in noticeable  roles, than in any movie I can think of and they all have actual personalities and make major, plot changing, contributions  (and I’m not sure action movie is an accurate descriptor and – again – actors of color sounds pretty stilted, sorry).

I think that we will go back and see it again, it was really that enjoyable a movie.

9 thoughts on “A pitch for the feel good science movie of the year

  1. It was terrific, Karen and one of the things that I most liked is the inclusivity, importance, and depth of the non-white characters.

  2. I haven’t read the book so the movie was all new to me. Usually a book is much longer and therefore more complicated than a two hour movie. Anything in particular that you think they shouldn’t have left out?

  3. I enjoyed your review and will be watching more closely when I see it later on this afternoon.

    Regarding the term “people of color”; this term always gives me pause. Not long ago Emma was talking about herself and a couple of her friends, one who is African and the other Indian, “Richard is brown, Sachi is tan…and I’m peach!” I look forward to the day when we are all considered people of color. Emma is eight, so it may not be that long.

  4. I don’t get to see many movies these days, but did get to Bridge of Spies last week, which I thought was terrific. Would love to hear your commentary.

    1. Gail, I haven’t seen Bridge, yet. It is on my very short list, however. Ordinarily, I am not a Steven Spielberg fan – his timing and mine are just different, but he does lay down a powerful image, especially in black and white or very desaturated color – but both Manohla Dargis (NYT) and Kenneth Turan (LAT) like it so I suspect I will too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *