‘The Martian’ has thrills for the sci-fi nerd in everyone


Special To The Japan Times

‘The Martian” (released in Japan as “Odyssey”) is one of those movies where you kick yourself afterward for not having read the book first. Otherwise, you’ll be going into this unprepared for the blasts of wondrousness, which hit you right in the eyes and light up the part of the brain that delights in sci-fi-astronaut-survival stories. (Trust me, we all have that part in our brains.)

“The Martian” started as a blog by Californian techie Andy Weir. Due to popular demand, he published a version on Amazon Kindle where it then took off. Ridley Scott helms the movie: a gripping, fist-clenching adventure saga that takes place on the rust-colored planet we know as Mars. Scott reportedly consulted closely with NASA on the production design and landscape details, and as a result the film feels like an incredibly awesome science lecture delivered by a charismatic explorer. Mars is freezing, there’s very little oxygen and zero water but after this, you may find yourself with a case of interplanetary wanderlust.

Matt Damon is the centerpiece of “The Martian.” He plays Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut and botanist who’s stranded on Mars alone after his crew members think he has been killed. It’s up to Mark to gather his wits, deploy every shred of knowledge and the scant resources at his disposal to “science the s—- out of this.” Somehow he must survive until the crew launch another mission and pick him up. Oh, but before that he needs to let everyone know that he’s still around. “Surprise!” he wisecracks into a video log, with the transmitter dead and, you know, no Wi-Fi on Mars. (There is, however, a stash of 1970s disco, thank God.)

“The Martian” is to moviegoers of today what “2001: A Space Odyssey” was to audiences in 1968, when Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke fired up imaginations and stoked a longing for space exploration. But Scott’s rendition is more light-hearted and nerdy (an interesting departure from the director’s dystopian space fantasy “Alien”), and he clearly relishes every minute of the project. Perhaps it’s because “The Martian” is not about a space hero with designs to save the world (though Watney’s space suit looks a lot like Buzz Lightyear’s), but a lonely science geek trying to save himself and, in the process, share that knowledge with his co-workers. If things went south, he could at least leave hard data and evidence material. Oh, what scientists will do to further “the cause.” Watch your mascara, ladies, this is a two-hanky affair.