Martian, Come Home

 DATELINE:  Turning the Beat Around


When we saw The Martian winning awards as a comedy, when it is a Ridley Scott science fiction extravaganza, we became dubious about viewing it.

We expected a variation on Robinson Crusoe on Mars, one of our favorites. With updates, the characters likely would feature ET as Man Friday and some talking computer as HAL. Heaven forfend, we worried that this movie would turn into Gilligan’s Island Meets Lassie.

To our pleasant surprise, none of these happened. Instead, we were treated to an astronaut left for dead on Mars—and breaking the movie wall by talking directly to his video recorder—and us, the audience. Matt Damon was thus able to apply dry wit to the dry desolate red planet.

The result was indeed humorous sotto voce, imbedded into the space adventure. We were particularly amused to find the few surviving remnants he had salvaged were disco music (used better than anything since the 1970s and even TV shows like Happy Days).

The change from Crusoe’s predicament is that everyone knows where Damon’s character is—but it may be impossible to reach him before food and water run out.

About as clever as Rube Goldberg in botanist’s smock, Damon makes the red planet his home.

A stellar cast of odd-ball scientists back on Earth rounds out the cast of rescuers. The ubiquitous Jeff Daniels is around as head of NASA and one of the Glover boys is a nerd scientist. Everyone accounts for an upbeat and entertaining film.

If the plot seems a tad ridiculous, the stranded astronaut reminds us of how preposterous the rescue plan is. In his growing age, Matt Damon is putting together a string of interesting films to show off his well-preserved tush—and impressive credentials in moviedom.