(Rated PG [Canada] PG-13 [MPAA] for some strong language, injury images and brief nudity; directed by Ridley Scott; stars Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig and Benedict Wong; run time: 141 minutes.)
Respecting life on Mars
By Ted Giese
Space exploration is dangerous, as Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi film, “The Martian,” illustrates. The movie tells the fictional story of an astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), left for dead on the surface of Mars during an emergency evacuation of a NASA science mission. The stranded astronaut must then figure out how to survive until the next manned mission to Mars arrives some four years in the future.
Reminiscent of recent films like “Interstellar” (2014) and “Gravity” (2013), which also included elements of survival in harsh extraterrestrial environments, “The Martian” is a cross between Robinson Crusoe and “Apollo 13” (1995). When Watney wakes up following his accident, he quickly realizes he’s alone on Mars and he has problems: not enough food, not enough water, no communication with NASA, and life-support systems that could break down, leaving him with no air. Ingenuity becomes vitally important as he puts to use his scientific knowledge in botany and engineering to solve his problems. When NASA discovers Watney is alive, the world’s intellectual, scientific and engineering resources are pushed to the limits to rescue this lone man trapped on Mars.
The film’s dramatic tension sits on the razor’s edge of two questions: Will Watney survive Mars, and can they bring him home?
Andy Weir’s novel, upon which the film is based, is crisp and full of anxious tension, threading the needle of bleak fatalism with a narrow glimmer of hope. Drew Goddard’s screenplay, however, is more conventional and in key moments more “Hollywood.” Goddard was originally slated to direct “The Martian,” and when he pitched the film to 20th Century Fox he stated his apprehensions about dumbing down the science, explaining, “I don’t know how to dumb this down. The science is crucial, it’s like a religious movie. In this case, his faith is science, not religion.”
It’s true that Watney and the rest of the story’s characters must have faith in their mathematical calculations. However, it is interesting to note that Scott and Goddard have managed to make a film that both keeps a significant amount of the book’s hard science while presenting a softer, more congenial view of religion than is found in Weir’s novel. Where religion comes up in “The Martian,” the film favors Christianity.
Back on earth one of the characters, Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is asked if he believes in God. He responds by saying he’s …
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Blessings in Christ,