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Action Movie Review: The Martian

November 5th, 2015 | 21 comments

IMDB Description: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

The danger of the marketing for a movie like ‘The Martian’ is the fact that people will instantly think it is a science fiction movie, and therefore discount it entirely. In actual fact, the movie is really a celebration of today’s scientists and innovators and the realities of what it takes to make progress, or ‘survive’ in that world.

In the case of our main character, Astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, his progress as a scientist is inextricably linked to his survival. And one of the key lessons the movie demonstrates to us, is that these great feats of science aren’t made in huge leaps and bounds, but are instead made by taking one small step at a time.

The film’s Rotten Tomato rating of 93% at the time of this review gives me hope that in fact more people are opening their minds (and their hearts) to the scientific explorer nature of this movie, and should you be in any doubt of going, hopefully this review will prompt you into action!

Peita’s Verdict

That's 4 zaps - certainly worth a visit to the cinema, and probably worth an upgrade to the more comfy seats.

That’s 4 zaps – certainly worth a visit to the cinema, and probably worth an upgrade to the more comfy seats.

If you haven’t already got the impression that I loved the movie, then surely my zaptitude rating above sends that message. Not an action movie in the strictest sense – there are very few ‘set pieces’, no car chases, no hand to hand combat or really weapons of any kind – this movie captures the essence of what I believe an Action Hero really is

an everyday person, facing a mountain of challenges that they overcome

Now, our main character here is not exactly an everyday person (he qualified for the NASA Space Program after all) however he certainly isn’t a superhero in any of the ways we understand that word in this day and age. What is clever about the movie is that they make his character so likeable (in fact there is a fair bit of humour in the movie, often at surprising moments) that he feels like he could be any one of us. The thing he has that perhaps so many of us have forgotten is a spirit of determination that defies obstacles that to be frank would leave most of us in a quivering, whiney mess on the floor. And the way he channels that determination is through working out what his next action needs to be. He rarely focuses on how dire his situation really is, but instead decides to do something about it.

SPACE-CAMP-1986-DVD-Cover-AltSo, ultimately this is a move about hope, and determination, and how science and exploration seem so large and epic, when in fact they are just small wins made by smart people who see set backs as an opportunity to learn, rather than a reason to give up.

As I walked out of the movie, I was reminded of the feeling that ‘Space Camp’ gave me when I was teenager. I instantly wanted nothing else than to be an astronaut, to be smart enough to face unpredictable challenges while exploring worlds that no-one had ever reached before. And now as an adult, I have to admit that one of my first thoughts after the movie was “I’m probably too old to be considered for that intake of students he’s talking to … right?”

To be honest, there aren’t many movies that bring out the child explorer in me anymore, and I can’t remember watching a movie that manages to make science like botany and chemistry so connected to our day to day survival. “The Martian” is unabashedly feel good and hopeful, and is refreshing for this very reason.

Movie Scorecard

So, as movies go, how did The Martian rate?

  • Cast: Awesome. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels … and many more fabulous actors.
  • Looks: Gorgeous. The scenery is shot beautifully. It feels both real, and otherworldly at the same time.
  • Pacing: Steady. Didn’t rush along too fast, but always captured my attention.
  • Length: Long. At 2 hours 20 min it may mean your joints creak a bit when you stand up (or is that just me?).
  • Score: Funny. I won’t spoil it for you, but music does become a theme throughout.

And like any good movie, we should also either discover or get reinforced a fundamental truth and The Martian doesn’t disappoint on this front either … gaffa tape really does solve anything!

Did the movie perform well as a Zaptitude Action Movie?

It is all well and good that we enjoy the movie, but is it worthy of the title ‘Zaptitude Action Movie’?

Well, in the case of The Martian, we can respond with a resounding “hell, yes!”. All the sort of characteristics and experiences we like to see in a Finance Action Hero are here:

  • Thinking big, but acting small
  • Contingency plans truly are life savers
  • Run the numbers before embarking on a major mission
  • A little forethought goes a long way (particularly when stranded on Mars, with no other humans, and no access to fresh food and water!)

This quote from the movie, made by our lead character Mark captures perfectly why The Martian seems like a ready made inspirational piece for budding Finance Action Heroes:

This is space. It does not cooperate. At some point everything is going to go south on you. Everything is going to go south and you’re going to say ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math, you solve one problem. Then you solve the next one, and then the next and if you solve enough problems you get to come home.”

Therefore I am really pleased this is the first of our Action Movie Reviews here at Zaptitude, as I am not sure we will have many movies, or main characters, that so perfectly display the day to day characteristics we all need to get on top of our money stuff, or in Mark’s case, survive on Mars.

Yours in Movie Madness,
Peita D.

p.s. If you are interested in hearing what other reviewers had to say about the movie, then check out Rotten Tomatoes.

p.p.s And if you would like to know more of these Finance Action Heroes we speak of, then check out my book here.


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