Movie Review – The Martian

 

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The Martian is based on the best selling book by Andy Weir, it tells the story of one astronaut, Mark Wattney, left for dead on Mars while the rest of his crew head back home in a pretty spectacular storm. The protagonist, Mark (played by Matt Damon) wakes up with half an arial stuck in his stomach and realises he is alone. Faced with certain death it is the story of perseverance and determination of one man to survive against a seemingly impossible situation.

Mark Wattney is one of six astronauts, part of the NASA programme on a manned mission to Mars. While the crew are gathering supplies they hear about a dangerous and deadly wind that is about to strike. True to movie form, they glance up and the giant storm clouds are rumbling in and the storm strikes instantaneously. As they flee to their space shuttle an arial breaks free slamming into Mark and blasting him out of sight. The crew search for him but it is impossible in the blinding conditions and they are informed that he is dead due to not being able to survive decompression. The captain, Commander Melissa Lewis struggles to come to terms with this and continues searching but eventually takes control as the captain and orders the shuttle home leaving Mark  on his own.

 

He comes to, the arial imbedded through his stomach, this agonising and torturous injury and congealed blood has saved his life, by keeping his suit plugged and stopping escaping air. From that moment on it is a  battle of survival as he digs the arial from his stomach in a bloody and gory scene that has you clutching your own stomach in agony at what he’s going through (Matt Damon is an incredible actor)  The next manned mission to Mars is in four years and his supplies won’t last that long. Finding he is alone and faced with such a desperate decision he struggles through endless battles to create his own food, planting potatoes using waste products and creating rain by burning hydrazine rocket fuel which instantly back fires and blows up. His second attempt is much successful and after a bit of time the potatoes have grown.

As the movie goes on is faced by more serious situations. He discovers a Pathfinder which puts him in touch with those back home who have decided not to tell Mark’s crew that he is actually alive. Eventually ‘ goes behind the head of NASA, Teddy’s back and informs the crew. They commit mutiny by changing the direction of the ship heading back to rescue Mark. On the subject of mutiny Mark realises Mars is in international waters and as he is going against NASA that makes him, essentially a pirate, a space pirate. He asks NASA to refer to him as Captain Blondbeard.

He travels to the MAV, the vessel that is to jettison him into space and into the path of the Ares space shuttle. It needs to be considerably lighter so following advice back home jettisons the control panel, windows and replaces the roof with a tarp. As it launches Mark passes out and when he regains conciousness he realises he isn’t in reach of the Ares shuttle who plan to catch him. “Oh great, I’ll wave as I go by.”

With some ingenious inventions such as ejecting part of the Ares shuttle to create enough force to propel the ship closer and Mark doing an ‘Iron Man’ punching a hole in his space suit and controlling the expelled air to jettison him upwards, eventually in a heart stopping finale they are reunited.

 

The scene flicks to Mark safe at home watching runners in a park. He bends down looking at a small plant breaking through the gravel to grow. He smiles, remembering how he colonised Mars and the great ordeal he went through.

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One of the essential concepts of this movie is loneliness and how Mark battles it.  The movie really expresses the loneliness you would feel as a person stranded up on Mars with only yourself to talk to. One of the ways in which the movie achieves this is by showing most of the movie with just Mark in isolation. Whilst there are scenes back home most of the duration of the movie is with Mark as he struggles to get home.

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Mark documents his perils on a video camera and it feels like he’s up there on his own and he is communicating with the viewer, it makes it more personal and touching and you are really rooting for him. Matt Damon really brings a sensitive and strong character to Mark, he’s like an oxymoron in a way, two contradicting statements creating a stronger representation. He’s sweet and kind but strong and determined, humorous and sarcastic. Mark has definitely become one of my favourite characters and Matt Damon a favourite actor. He really was fantastic as an actor, the injury scene was pretty brutal, watching it on the cinema was horrific as it was and it wasn’t different at home. It made you feel actual pain watching it. It was really believable, his breathing was correct he had the right facial expressions.

The Martian uses extreme wide angles and high angle shots to convey the vulnerability of man against an extreme and unforgiving and inhospitable environment. He is faced by more serious challenges every second so that when he does achieve his mission of escaping Mars it feels even more of a triumph to the viewer who has been with him every step of the way. These high angles show how small man is against the force of nature which makes it even more powerful when he does get back safely as he’s battled against so much to get home and the camera angles serve to reinforce this. Low angles are used when the action is in motion such as when the jeep was moving off.

Mark says in space, you solve one problem and then you solve the next and when you’ve solved enough then you get to go home. He faces more challenges and it becomes the worst he can and just when you think he’s about to achieve it something else crops up, the battered air-lock decompresses and explodes breaking his helmet (both which he patches up with duct tape) his crops are destroyed or there’s a problem with the space shuttle. It’s extremely tense but keeping adding drama and more questions holds the viewers attention and there is no way you could walk out of the cinema on this one.

When he ends up at home safe, it feels a shame that they missed all the jubilation of his return and instead shoots straight to Mark sitting on the bench. Yes this is realistic, and synomonous of life, something exciting happens then you go back to normal life and life always starts again. The leaf brings him back to the time on Mars.

Despite the dire situations he continuously faces the movie is not a depressing one, instead it is pumped through with humour, amusing scenes, funny comments especially from Mark who’s character is a sarcastic and humorous one whether he’s remarking on one of the crew’s choice of music or saying he’ll be like IronMan his humour helps him overcome the tense and terrifying moments, ‘they’re saying I’ll be the fastest man because they know I’ll like the way it sounds. I do like it. I like it a lot. Ok, let’s do this.” It seems bizarre to say but it is like a feel good movie and the music is very upbeat and seemingly inappropriate at times but it made the movie very fun and engaging to watch. I still can’t get one of the tracks out of my head.

We met all the astronauts at the beginning but they were really just faces, we weren’t sure of all their characters as there wasn’t time to develop it. And how do you reveal such character when they have little screen time. Well there’s a saying in writing that one of the best ways to find out about someone is by what they do and what other people think about them. And also their characters were shown through the belongings they’d left behind on Mars, all their personal effects that meant something to them. One was religious (shown by the cross of Jesus) one had excessive amounts of dance music one had lots of geeky programmes. It was interesting to see how you could learn about all the characters just through their belongings and what they owned and what they classed as important to take on the mission with them.

On a scientific point of view the movie was packed full with it but it wasn’t presented in an overcomplicated way nor was it shown so simply that the viewer felt demeaned and patronised. Instead everything was discussed clearly and professionally and even a non scientific person could follow it despite the technicality of it. That in itself is a major feat and a very important one as it felt so real.

The only thing that wasn’t quite true was the storm in the beginning that had to set off the whole chain of events. The atmosphere wouldn’t generate a storm so fierce and strong enough to do such damage but it had to be included. However everything else was really researched and the top researchers approved it. When Andy Weir  was writing the Martian knew his subject and kept asking everyone and online for advice asking is this true or as real as you can get.

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And that is the scary thing about the movie, it’s so tense and dramatic because it is all true. It’s not like say, StarWars (as amazing as that movie is) the Martian is very real, extremely close to home, this kind of thing could be happening as I write this. And this movie really illustrates the dangers of space travel and ensures an almost documentary movie.

 

On a note of costume design I like the fact that his space suit was orange and matched the surroundings. Somehow I feel if it had been blue it wouldn’t have fit in with the whole ethos and miss on scene of the movie. All the atmosphere is orange and rusty coloured, everything matches with the landscape and the scenes back home are such a contrast.

In conclusion the Martian is a very powerful movie, moving and uplifting, soaked with scenes of great terror, jubilance, impossibility, uncomrehendable loneliness and rib tickling humour. It’s one small step for man one giant leap for man kind (I’m sorry, I had to include that)

 

 

Clik Review – Pan

Joe Wrights, Pan is a movie that appear to be flying about in the marmite category, viewers either love it so much they feel like they’ve been sprinkled in pixie dust or they loathe it so much that they’re tempted to support Captain Blackbeard over our young protagonist, Peter (played by Levi Miller). Yes, you heard it right, Captain Hook is not the enemy in this tale, instead it is the slightly Georgian looking unrecognisable Hugh Jackman who portrays the pantomime character and bizarrely dressed Blackbeard who seems to have a guilty pleasure of singing Nirvarnas, ‘Smells Like Teenage Spirit’ whilst inhaling pixie dust to keep him young and eternal (equivalent of taking drugs it would seem and a reference to Harry Potter and that famous stone…) Jackman does a fantastic job and definitely has the fear factor especially in the shadow fight in the camp later on. Captain Hook however does feature in the movie, just not as the hook handed man that has darkened the dreams of all young children through the years, instead Hook is a young man played by Garret Hedlund  who is a cocky, Indiana Jones esque guy if the hat is anything to go by. Again he seems a pantomime actor with constant jokes, buckets of charisma and continuous flirtation with Tiger Lilly, a compeltely different representation of JM Barries Hook. I would have liked to see at least a smidgen of his dark character.  Instead of beginning with rivalry the young Peter and Hook’s hatred of each other starts off as one of friendship. This was enough to get me to the cinema. I was intrigued to see how the friendship would be broken, why would Hook turn against Peter, how would the script writers create it. All there was to go on was the quote ‘where enemies become friends and friends become enemies.”I waited patiently throughout the whole movie and as the time went by and the ending drew near I realised that this was clearly something going to be left for the sequel (though if the ratings are anything to go by the questions may remain only answered in people’s imaginations. Or lost in Neverland. The quote seems fairly pointless considering that the ‘friends become enemies’ remained as invisible as Harry’s coat. Rather disappointedly there were no physical references made to Hook, he didn’t even lose his hand which I felt would have at least satisfied some of the ardent Peter Pan fans and given a hint of what was to come. The movie itself is well constructed and I really enjoyed it. It began very strongly with Pan’s mother (Amanda Seyfried’) hurrying through the dark streets to leave her son on the doorstep of the grim London Orphanage (a reflection of Oliver) promising “I’ll see you again, if not in this world, then another.’ The orphanage is ruled over by the tyrannical Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke) In a scene that is a blend of nightmarish clowns and circus exploits, unexpectedly pirates come down on bungee jump cords with faces like something out of an Alice and Wonderland nightmare, to snatch the children from their beds and drag them onto the flying ship (whilst the ship didn’t technically fly until the end of the original Peter Pan) On the subject of confusing parrallesims, JM Barries Peter Pan is set in the Edwardian times yet Pan is much later, World War 2 later. The CGI of arriving in Neverland is second to none, magical worlds enclosed in bulging bubbles with star scapes and dreamy galaxies to ignite the imagination. Then we arrive in Neverland where the children are put to work mining for fairy dust and the moment the pirates started to sing the movie began to unravel.

The escape scene (accompanied by Smee played by Adeel Akhtar who seems to serve only for a bit of light humour before betraying the small group and disappearing from the story) was full of excitement and tension but after that the plot seemed to wander this way and that like a map designed by a faulty sat nav. The trailer had shown the exhilarent shot of the famous crocodile launching itself out of the water over the boat. My mind visualised a fantastic and enthralling fight scene but once again I was disappointed, yes Pan ended up in the water but the trek through the jungle took a lot longer time than the action scene. With such fantastic CGI that moment could have been something of pure magic, alas it was sadly deflating.

The rest of the movie went by in a blur of psychedilliec costumes, TigerLilly’s headdress looked like something I would buy my cat to play with, those pom poms seemed to overpower Rooney Mara’s acting somehow as you couldn’t take your eyes off them…She brings something completely different to the role with kick ass character and a don’t mess with me attitude, clearly one for feminism, you can see her fighting for rights for women. The movie does at times resemble a pantomime show with the light humour, comedy moments such as the fight scene which loses the fear by shooting the whole thing on a giant trampoline, and the kaleidoscopic spectrum of colours. Joe Wright the director seems an unusual choice for the role considering his past movies such as Pride and Prejudice which aren’t in the category of children movies however I do like what he has brought to the story, he fills it with twists and it does stand out I just feel it would have been much stronger had the plot had more depth.

The best part about the movie would be newcomer Levi Miller who stole the show with his bright eyed and mischievous misendeamour alongside the beautiful music which told the story in stunning technicolour and emotion, the background voices creating the air of music, you could imagine the tribes of Neverland singing the anthem (a lot more appropriate than Smells Like Teenage Spirit which is sung along to the tune of Entertain Us ) The tick of a clock can be heard in the music a reference to the ticking crocodile, that again fails to materialise.

The movie is filled with beautiful sets and magical creations  Pan is derived from the studio that brought us Harry Potter a movie which enraptured the hearts of the world both young and old and whilst Pan features quite a few references to adult themes such a drug use, sex references and strong language it does seem more focused on the younger target audience or perhaps those like myself who have never really grown up.

Feminism in StarWars

My course hasn’t yet arrived though I keep checking out of the window as though doing so will cause the delivery van to materialise in the driveway (definitely watching too many movies) so in the meantime I have been reading this fascinating blog, Mark Kennedy is head of story at Disney Feature Animation and his blog is like going through Smaugs vast treasure, every single sentence is packed with information and advice, I haven’t stopped reading it since I discovered it yesterday evening. There is information about cutting, characterisation, how plots and characters intertwine, what to avoid, what to do, for any fellow course mates it’s such a brilliant resource and one I definitely recommend wholeheartedly.

One of the main parts of this course is that you get to watch loads of movies and you can chose what you want to watch yourself. I took a trip to Star Wars, The Force Awakens and was blown away by the movie. The special effects were second to none, the characters so real I felt like I might just bump into them outside the Odeon but I wanted to use this blog to write about something I was really quite struck by.

Feminism in the movies. (warning movie spoilers)

It is a pattern seen throughout the movie industry, the princess is in trouble and the prince comes to the rescue. Akira Kurosawa was quite fond of portraying women as weak and defenceless characters with the male always coming to the rescue. This was happily accepted at that time but now since women liberation and rights for women, the portrayal of the feminine hero has changed dramatically. We now see the rise of heroic women in the movies such as Katniss in the Hunger Games and Tris Prior in Divergent. Each weapon wielding, strong characters who girls can look up to. Of course with anything it can sometimes go too far, some women now think the fact that a man may want to help them is demeaning and sexist just as going too far along the spectrum and seeing women as defenceless and always needing to be rescued. So there is a balance I think in getting this right, not too weak, not too headstrong, whilst many may disagree with me this is just my personal opinion.  A lot of us dream about a perfect guy to sweep us off our feet and that doesn’t make anyone weak or pathetic. The latest StarWars Movie for me got the balance just right (just like the Hunger Games and Divergent), introducing the main protagonist, a girl, Rey who is strong, dependent, good with engines and anything mechanical, she can fight her way out of trouble and saves everyone more than once, yet is kind to the droid BB-8 and loyal to her friends. She has a harsh backstory, struggling to survive in the barren desert after her family were taken from her, scavenging abandoned ships and selling the parts in exchange for measly portions of food.  Eventually she meets Finn, a storm trooper who escaped the First Division, the evil sect. Rey is captured by Kylo Ren ( the new Dark Lord following in Darth Vaders footsteps) and is imprisoned and tortured under mind control. Finn comes to her rescue, storming the place only to find, she’s rescued herself. I felt that was brilliant, the heroic man still showed his character of being loyal as he staged a rescue, yet Rey was admired getting herself out of danger and finding powers of the force inside her. This continued to the end of the movie where Rey and Finn were racing across the snow engulfed forest and there was Kylo Ren who with a sweep of his hand hurled Rey into the air and slammed her against a tree. As she dropped unconscious into the snow Finn fought Kylo Ren with the lightsaber and was slashed across the back falling motionless in the snow. Kylo Ren used his powers to pull Luke Skywalkers lightsaber out of the snow and as it was flew towards him suddenly it bypassed him landing in Rey’s hand. A huge battle ensued where Rey was hanging over a precipice at one point, but she remembered Maz Kanatas words, closed her eyes and felt the force. She defeated Kylo Ren, not killing him in cold blood but instead the ground caved in separating Rey and Finn from Kylo who it would seem will be back for the sequel.

Of course Rey wasn’t just the fierce and independent woman, Kylo Ren exposed her heart, how she saw Hans Solo as the father she’d never had, thus causing the viewer to emphasise with her even more. When I heard that the main character was going to be a woman I wasn’t sure what to expect. I worried they would make her weak and need rescuing all the time so I was thrilled to see she was a unique reincarnation of Luke Skywalker, whilst completely different, she carried the same respect and idolism that he did. Even aspects of her costume have been reimagined from Skywalkers costume, the bands around her arms just like Luke’s leggings. Of course Princess Leia is seen as a heroic woman and she is fighting the dark side but the perverse scene where she is chained as a slave in a bikini, always clouds that though she did defeat Jabba the Hutt. Rey however with her technical know how, headstrong, determined and strong personality has become my favourite character in the franchise along with Luke Skywalker and the adorable R2D2 and BB-8. StarWars definitely found the force.