It’s really difficult to not compare and contrast Ridley Scott’s The Martian to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar since the former was released barely a year after the latter. Matt Damon returns to the silver screen in a space suit, except he’s the good guy this time. And Jessica Chastain actually gets to go into outer space in this film instead of hanging out on Earth. Thankfully, the biggest difference lies in that while Interstellar was an engaging cerebral experience that demanded the audience’s full attention for its duration, The Martian showcases a balance between levity and gravity that is as entertaining as it is endearing and will leave you cheering in the end (no spoilers, though).
The Martian follows astronaut botanist Mark Watney as he tries to survive on Mars after being left for dead by his crew. Watney is the Everyman of this space-age epic, and Matt Damon carries the character through the highest of highs – the ecstasy of creating a potato farm on Mars, for example – and the lowest of lows – the depression of a freak accident freezing that potato farm and abandoning your food supply, to complement the previous example. Damon as Watney carries the film, and while the character may be a little abrasive in his language (filters up, btw), he implements just the right amount of winsome wit and amiable reactions that attracts the audience like family.
Other performances demand our accolades as well, namely Jessica Chastain as Commander Melissa Lewis, the leader of the Hermes crew. She gracefully leads the other crew members – Michael Peña (Fury), Kata Mara (Fantastic Four), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and Aksel Hennie (uh…I haven’t reviewed anything he’s been in yet, so…) – while on Mars. She conveys the guilt and shame of leaving one of her own crew behind, but then she turns that into eager joy as she and the crew decide to go pick him back up. Props to all these journeymen of the final frontier.
Back on Earth, Jeff Daniels (yes, that Jeff Daniels) is NASA bigwig Teddy Sanders, Sean Bean is his rogue friend Mitch Henderson, and Donald Glover is the antisocial fringe thinker Rich Purnell. Other names – Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Benedict Wong – all bring their finest acting chops in what is sure to be an award-winning film come Oscar time.
The Christian Angle: All Lives Matter
On Mars, the conflict is simple: Man vs. Nature. Mark Watney confronts the Red Planet’s harsh environment with every moment of life. One minute, he’s facing a sandstorm like the one that abandoned him alone on the planet, and then he is trying to stay warm in his ATV as he travels across the vast Martian craters.
But back on Earth, the conflict is of the more complex Man vs. Man variety. The drama comes into play when the powers that be at NASA, upon discovering that Watney is still alive, hesitate in their rescue efforts. Teddy Sanders questions whether or not Mark Watney is worth saving. Thankfully, Mitch Henderson is there to correct him (in one of the most hilarious meta jokes in a movie I’ve ever seen, but don’t click the link unless you’ve seen the film first).
And as he’s been dragging his feet the whole time, other characters play their part in convincing Sanders that all lives matter, even the one human life on Mars. Sanders eventually supports the rescue operations, reluctantly at first but understandably so. It takes a lot of NASA’s resources to support such a cause; add that to what has already been spent and used, and the overall cost almost becomes insurmountable…almost.
In the end, nothing was too costly if it meant saving Mark Watney, and the same can be said for how God sees us: never too costly to save. That’s the what Gospel of Jesus Christ is: even though we’ve earned death through our sins, we have been shown grace and given mercy and even offered eternal life through God’s Son. God the Father paid the price for our sins so that we could be saved from the frozen place that is life without Him. and that is definitely Good News.
I would highly suggest catching The Martian while it is still in theaters. Consider it the premier of the 2015-2016 Film Season. Few other films out right now have this level of storytelling with award-winning actors and an award-winning director, and it would be a shame to miss out (filters up, though).