For a movie about a man stranded millions of miles from Earth, fighting to survive, "The Martian" is a joyous, funny and feel-good film.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir, "The Martian" stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, who finds himself left behind on the red planet after a disastrous storm, where the rest of the crew believed he was killed.
"I'm still alive," he says in his video log. "Surprise."
All by his lonesome, he has to find a way to survive until the next mission comes to Mars, which entails making food, keeping warm and figuring out how to stay alive on a planet that's constantly trying to kill you.
This could be a dreary, depressing film, but Watney is no sad sack and an excellent Damon brings tons of charm to the role. He's a smart guy with a specific set of skills -- botany, for example -- who has an unrelenting drive to survive, coupled with a wry sense of humor. You'll never be bored even when Watney is lugging around tubs of dirt, poking holes in metal or other seemingly monotonous tasks.
And there are a ton of characters here -- from the people on Earth (Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and Sean Bean) to the astronauts (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan) -- but the film never feels overloaded. And despite a lot of science talk, it's never confusing.
It's a tribute to the script, written by Drew Goddard ("Lost," "The Cabin in the Woods") and based closely on the novel, and to director Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner"), who come together for this perfectly paced, funny, smart film. It's infinitely watchable, and I could have sat through a few more screenings of the film right away.
This is a sci-fi film for people who don't like sci-fi films, while still remaining appealing for hard-core fans.