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.