[Interstellar spoiler alert]
What if Matt Damon’s character in Interstellar hadn’t turned homicidal and falsified data out of desperation? What if instead of going into cryo-sleep he had McGyvered his way into surviving the desolate planet which was threatening to turn into his grave? What if Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s mission was not as lofty as trying to save humanity but instead a mere rescue mission to retrieve Damon after he somehow managed to communicate the following message across space: I am still alive. Please come save me. And what if NASA wasn’t totally cool with the risk involved?
That’s kind of what the new Ridley Scott movie The Martian looks like, starring Damon as an astronaut presumed dead and left behind on Mars as his crew hastily flees a devastating dust storm descending upon their location. So, while they’re on their ship with a one-way ticket back to Earth he’s stuck on the red planet by himself, relying on his background in botany and mechanical engineering to survive, or as Damon puts it in the trailer, “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” It’s based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, which he self-published, so good for him. Joss Whedon’s best buddy Drew Goddard (Angel, Cabin in the Woods) adapted it for the screen, enticing Ridley Scott to direct. I was going to say it’s Scott first movie since Prometheus, but I somehow completely forgot about 2013’s The Counselor and 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. Man, Scott’s really keeping himself busy.
The first trailer dropped online a couple of days ago:
You could also pitch this as being kind of like Tom Hanks’ Cast Away if around halfway through everyone suddenly became aware that his character was still alive and for some reason they had to figure out how they were going to save him and debate if the risk was worth the reward. He’s just one guy, after all. And then Helen Hunt would step forward and give a nice little speech about how she’s going to save him no matter the risks, putting any “But, Helen, we might die!” naysayers to shame, ala Jessica Chastian in The Martian trailer.
Or you could pitch it as being kind of like Gravity if…wait, you could also say it’s a lot like Mission to Mars just told from Don Cheadle’s point of view (he was the guy Gary Sinese and friends were sent to save) and minus any 2001: A Space Odyssey mimicry.
Or you could just stop with all the comparisons and appreciate what appears to be a well-made survival/rescue movie set in space. Sure, it’s a bit odd seeing Matt Damon in it so soon after Interstellar, and the same goes for Jessica Chastain. And even though she likely won’t end up with superpowered invisibility there are some aesthetic similarities between Kata Mara in this and Kata Mara in The Fantastic Four. But, hey, there’s Chiwetel Ejiofar looking all somber, and Donald Glover like someone who hasn’t thought about Community in ages. Kristen Wiig’s around. Jeff Daniels might break out into a Newsroom speech at some point as the nominal human adversary. Well, now I’m just listing cast members. So, here are some more – Sean Bean (obligatory joke about his chances of dying), Michael Pena, and Sebastian “Winter Soldier” Stan.
The Martian looks pretty good to me. The idea of a split-narrative between the person surviving on their own and the society plotting their rescue presents a risky, but intriguing balance. What do you think? It’s due out November 25, 2015, aka Thanksgiving in America. Turkey, football, and outer-space Matt Damon. It just seems right.