The Martian

January 1, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 3 Comments |

We'd rather watch Marvin (thanks to Warner Bros.)

(Dir. Ridley Scott) (2015)

The one where the rocket takes off, but leaves the botanist behind by mistake, to tend his potatoes.

It is easy to overlook quibbles (about, say, wind-cut sand dunes and big storms in an almost airless planet, consequence-free exposure to massive radiation, etc. – in other words, the fact that Mars doesn’t look or act as presented here) if you get a compelling story with real wit and feeling attached.  Unfortunately, we don’t.  What we do get is the old Hollywood ‘bake ‘n’ shake’.

Recipe: Ingredients & method

Let’s mine a bit of Interstellar but this time, Matt Damon wants to be the good guy (he’s more at home that way).  He’s also happy to defy Einstein by looking younger on return.

Add a dash of Castaway.  You will need a sheet of tarpaulin with magical, voodoo qualities.  And instead of a volleyball, try a space helmet bound in gaffer tape.

Drizzle a little Gravity into the mixture.  You’ll need that at the conclusion to wake-up an audience by-now hungry for some real suspense.

We’re all greenies here in L.A., Burbank, and Culver City, so lets plunder some space farming hooey from Silent Running.

The mad dash into the wasteland to save one replaceable drifter?  “Nothing is Written”?  I hear the wind-shaped dunes of Lawrence of Arabia shifting….


Matt does some home surgery on his gym-cooked torso after he gets in the way of metaphysical space-junk.  Diced shades of The Fugitive, and blanched Ronin.

We need to soften the sourness of the mix so sweeten with some cultural cross-referencing.  Hence we give Sean Bean a ‘role’, allowing us to deploy a silly Lord of the Rings reference.

Back on Planet Stupid, the suits are damned if some little grommet is going to die on their watch!  No way!  No one dies today, or on any of the other 1213 solar days it takes to get to the end credits.  So let’s ‘science the shit out of this’ and have some boffins drink too much freeze-dried coffee, scribble ‘the math’ in untidy notebooks, explain complex nonsense by using everyday objects, and fall back on Newtonian ‘slingshots’ to resolve the problem.  In other words, stir in some zest from Apollo 13 (Jeff Daniels even dresses like it’s 1970) and simmer a salty portion of Event Horizon.

Gently combine over a lukewarm inspiration and garnish with the jogging-in-space-wheel scene from 2001.

Gather several extraordinary characters who evoke a genuine pioneering spirit; who solve problems by a teeth-gnashing series of trial and error; to whom impossible solutions fail to arrive; who die nobly, without the need to make documentaries about themselves; who cut out the whining.  Set these aside and do not use.

Whip-in an ethnically diverse group of hipsters who are more intellectually, emotionally and ethically advanced than us, and braver to boot.

Combine into an easy, drippy, gelatinous mass and pipe into selected cinemas, and you get a space opera that is, pardon us, alien.  Alien to Mars, and to Earthlings.


  1. Reply

    Smug of Glebe

    January 8, 2016

    A colleague asks 'How do you know the exposure to radiation was consequence free? We have to wait for the (inevitable) sequel to find out!' I'd have thought organ failure would kick in after a solar minute or two. In the sequel, I’d have Matt turning into some sort of irradiated Jason-Bourne-style replicant, who starts eating Congressional Members trying to trim NASA’s funding. Matt could just play himself!

  2. Reply

    Steve Hill

    January 23, 2016

    Two things.
    The Martian Winning Best Comedy at the Golden Globes proves that the Foreign Press has a great sense of humour.
    I thought the film was like Duck Dodgers (in the 24th and a half century) meets Saving Private Ryan.
    I'm most pleased i didnt pay to see the movie too

  3. Reply


    October 19, 2022

    I feel you're being a little unfair with your criticism of this classic storyline – a survival against all the odds, with the world watching on! I thought the book made a lot more sense, but I still enjoyed the film. I'm not usually one for science-fiction, but this little tale intrigued and satisfied my simplistic film needs. I thought the photography was also excellent and I enjoyed listening to ABBA music again! If you can find it on U-tube you might enjoy the book's author - Andy Weir - giving a presentation to NASA staff after the film was made. All nerdy speak - but fun!

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