I guess I’m the only one. At least I’m definite in my opinions, right? I mean, you wouldn’t want me to be one of those people who said it was great just because everybody said it was great, right? No one would care what she thought. Maybe I like going against the grain. Maybe negative reviews are just a whole lot easier (and more fun) to write. But, as one critic hinted at to a more positive effect, the only thing worse than being a man stuck alone on a planet is being a woman stuck alone in a movie theater watching a man stuck alone on a planet.
If you’ll pardon the double negative, I did not not like The Martian. I can’t think of any Matt Damon movie not worth at least checking out. I just got really, really bored. At two hours, twenty-one minutes, it felt a lot longer. Like watching potatoes grow. Literally.
There were the ever present shades of movies like Cast Away and Apollo 13 (much more successful movies to my mind). Like Cast Away, it was often just one man and the camera, though Tom Hanks pulled it off for much more of the movie while The Martian kept cutting back to Earth to see what the good folks at NASA were doing – usually mucking things up by playing politics. Hey, you can’t blame director Ridley Scott for trying to drum up some tension.
And who wasn’t reminded of Apollo 13 as we watched scientists tackle problem after problem while the whole world roots for everyone to make it back safe and sound? Somehow though, it was more fun watching Bill Paxton build a carbon dioxide reducing diffuser out of cardboard and some duct tape. And I know I can’t be the only person who rolled my eyes at the live broadcasts to thousands in Times Square and similar locations the world over. I’m not suggesting we wouldn’t care. It’s high drama. We certainly would care. Here. I take issue more with the sheer number and their locale. Are thousands of Chinese or Europeans really going to be glued to the action?
And no offense to the nerds out there, but I think this is kind of a geek-lovers movie. In this world, science is king and NASA execs are superheroes. I can see my dad really enjoying watching Damon make water by burning hydrogen (sorry, Dad). Or a certain friend’s father who used to help me with my chemistry homework (sorry, Mr. Barnhill). And not that I associate bad music and corny jokes with nerds, but I kinda do – and this movie has tons of both. It was somebody’s bright idea to take the running joke of the bad musical tastes of Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and make those songs the soundtrack. Now, normally I like some disco music, but the only song I can stand is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and that plays along with the end credits! Fitting. A celebration of surviving the movie. But I’m getting carried away. It wasn’t that bad.
In the end, I don’t know why some movies work and some don’t. Why Tom Hanks is funny pounding on his chest like a caveman when he makes fire but Damon is kind of corny when he poses for a satellite picture as The Fonz from Happy Days. I think Damon is a great actor. Maybe it has something to do with trying too hard. Or that it’s all been done before. You’ll have to decide for yourself. So don’t let me keep you away from the movie or the movie keep you away from the book. The book is always better.