“In Your Face, Neil Armstrong!”: The Martian: A Review.

Help Is Only 140 Million Miles Away…

THE LONE RANGER:
THE LONE RANGER: “I wonder how the Cubs are doing?”

“Log Entry: Sol 6. I’m pretty much fucked – that’s my considered opinion. Fucked” – Mark Watney. 

There are three important facts you need to know about Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi opus, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir.

The Martian offers a rollickingly good yarn on how to survive on our nearest neighbour in the solar system; also, the curse of woefully-underwhelming movies set on Mars as featured in a previous Post has – for the time being at any rate – been expunged; and thirdly – and perhaps most vital of all – this blogger would NOT be watching the movie alone! In a last-minute dramatic twist, Mrs. B noticed the seat next to me on the big-city-bound-bus was vacant. She bungled in and paid the extra fare. We were off to Mars together after all, and this blogger was already over the moon.    

Mrs. B loves Matt Damon; Mrs. B loves Matt Damon topless; Mrs. B loves botany. Yes, folks, my beloved has found THE PERFECT MOVIE. Watching Matt Damon – sorry, Mark Watney – fiddle with his seeds, Mrs. B pursed her lips in admiration. She leaned over, nudged me in the ribs and whispered: “I wanna go help him!” 

Should have known she was going to say that. Don’t mind Brad: he’ll be Terra-bound, blogging away, looking after the cat…

THE SEEDS OF DOOM:
THE SEEDS OF DOOM: “Hell yeah I’m a botanist! Fear my botany powers!”

“The Martian atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, so a Mars wind of 100mph… would only have the dynamic force as a 10mph wind on Earth. You could fly a kite in it, but it wouldn’t knock you down” – Dr. Robert Zubrin. 

So, when Watney determines to “science the shit out of this, how accurate is The Martian’s science?

Or is it just shit?

The most glaring gaffe is the “fierce storm” – the integral plot device that causes Watney to be stranded on Mars in the first place. As the atmosphere of Mars is less dense than Earth’s, such a storm would be extremely unlikely – even Weir was quick – albeit reluctantly – to admit that.

One glowing review commended The Martian for being “one of the best thrillers of the year.” 

Thriller?

What makes this movie so enjoyable to watch is the natural charm and effervescence of its leading man. After the hilarious moment when he admits to being a botanist, and (too) confidently vlogs about how he will grow his own food, there is no reason for us to get anxious. No suspense, no dramatic tension, certainly no  “edge-of-the-seat” stuff here – in fact, his fight for survival becomes quite entertaining viewing. Amusingly, Watney’s concern seems mostly preoccupied with trying to cope with Commander Lewis’ deplorable taste in disco music!

“No, I absolutely will not turn the beat around!”

The biggest laugh of the movie comes when he experiments with making water by extracting hydrazine from the rocket fuel and burning hydrogen. He is – to use the hip parlance of our time – “pretty smokin'”; literally, the smoke is rising off poor Watney as he vlogs: “So… I blew myself up…”  

No prizes for guessing that my little lady gave out the biggest laugh when that accident blasted him across the auditorium in full glorious Dolby Stereo.   

THE SECRET GARDEN:
THE SECRET GARDEN: “My asshole is proving to be just as useful as my brain”

“Just so we’re clear, Mark Watney is who I want to be. He has all the qualities I like about myself…  Mark Watney isn’t afraid to fly” – Andy Weir. 

Having enjoyed the audiobook, certain classic lines have been omitted, but Drew Goddard has managed to take one engrossing book and write a rather special screenplay.

It should be mentioned that the second-best feature of this movie is the stunning location photography. Wadi Rum in Jordan makes for a superb Martian landscape. We watched in 3D format, which helped enhance our viewing pleasure immensely.

Personally, we could easily have done without any of the scenes back on Earth; none of the (underwritten as usual) NASA personnel had a fraction of Watney’s charisma anyway. At least one of us would have been satisfied with just Damon monologuing nonchalantly into his videocam for the entire 141 minutes.    

Apart from the incredible storm, please spare me the young socially awkward mathematician who has (successfully!) plotted the best gravity-assist trajectory to bring back Watney et al within agreeable parameters. 

The only other major gripe about this movie concerns the climax. Besides the uncertainties of getting Watney into orbit (in a coneless module?!), there is the highly improbable task of Ares III selecting the right course and velocity to catch him. The movie’s running time is fast running out, so the script simply cannot afford any more screw-ups, miraculously.  A typically treacly Hollywood ending spoils it a tad, but nevertheless, its place on the Top 10 of 2015 list is assured. 

Naturally, there are numerous nods to other movies: being stranded (Cast Away), trying to deal with the return to Earth (Apollo 13), struggling to grow food millions of miles from Earth (Silent Running) and even being separated millions of miles from Jessica Chastain (Interstellar).

Fortunately for Damon, it is a more wholesome slice of sci-fi than the bleak and foul-mouthed Elysium (not even Mrs. B fancied the idea of watching her fave star as a bald-headed cyborg); and for Scott, it is a (much) welcome return-to-form after the flawed Prometheus and misjudged Exodus. 

To sum up then, The Martian is one helluva one-guy-against-the-odds movie – an exhilarating cinematic experience which can – and certainly will in this household – be watched time and time again. 

And yes, it was fantastic to have nachos with the Special Cheezy Dip again.

Mr. and Mrs. B’s Verdict: 

The-Martian

“Way to go, Iron Man!”

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Journey To The Centre Of The Multiplex

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It, Is To Find A Screening of The Martian.

In English. In Bangkok.  

martian-in-thai

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary…” – Joseph Campbell.  

The objective seemed simple enough; last week anyway. Wait until my beloved Mrs. B had returned from her revitalising week-long meditation retreat; then take her to watch her fave movie star: Matt Damon. The Martian had been released – quite fortuitouslyon her birthday! Seriously, how difficult could it possibly be? 

Quite difficult as it turned out…

There is a tendency – especially in regional cinemas – to dub some of the biggest blockbusters into Thai, and our local multiplex is no exception. We didn’t have this problem with Guardians Of The Galaxy, or only last month with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Although The Martian arrived here only last Thursday with FOUR showings in its original English soundtrack, it has been reduced – just days later – to ONE showing in Thai only. 

Bugger… 

So be. Looks like a day trip to the Big Mango is in order. Travelling so far just to catch one movie – no matter how brilliant and unmissable The Martian may be – does seem a tad too extreme; still, this writer requires other things up north simply not available in our hometown. Brad will proceed. And with Mrs. B?

“What’s the matter, lov?” 

“Sorry, hon. I’m not going…” 

siam-paragon

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else” – Marco Polo.

The Mother Of All Malls in the Thai capital is the Siam Paragon; it’s hard to miss, nestling right next to the interchange MRT station slap bang in the city centre. Its plush, state-of-the-art multiplex theatre has provided us with some of cinema’s finest most recent gems ALWAYS in English. Even if a movie turns out to be utter crud, at least you can marvel at the exquisite finery of the drapes…  

And the- hang on, just remembered! At the Major Cineplex, Central World, they have Special Cheezy Dip with their nachos. Yeah, will go there instead – just the next stop on the MRT. However, recent events – especially a tragic bomb attack in August at one of our favourite shrines – have made some tourists (Mrs. B included) extremely wary of Bangkok’s level of security. 

“But this is what you wanted, lov. Your birthday treat! Hey, it’s about Matt Damon stranded on Mars. Just him, vlogging for two hours. Come on, hon! He’ll be staring right at you as you watch him! Couldn’t be better!”

The thought of going back to the intolerable noise, stress and pollution of the capital city – even for just one day – fills my lady with dread. Plus, a long and reckless mini-bus ride (which she simply cannot stand) must be endured before you can seize the chance to inhale that city air…

Then there are other reservations to consider: “What if this movie turns out to be just as terrible as that other space movie, hon?” 

“Oh, you mean Jupiter Ascending? Good Lord, nothing else could be as dire as that, lov! The Martian has had some really encouraging reviews. Look…” 

At this point, frantic scrolling at rottentomatoes.com on my smartphone ensued, but she didn’t look.

“No, someone’s got to stay and look after Sooty [our cat].”

“You know what the cinema’s like: by this Friday they will have reverted back to showing the usual rubbish.”

“I can wait until this comes out on disc. Besides, I can have my Bourne trilogy any time I want.”

“So, there’s… no way I can persuade you to come with me?”

“‘Fraid not, Ford. Anyway, I don’t have a movie-blog to maintain…”  

themartian

“It is far. But there is no journey that a man may not make if he sets his heart to it. There is nothing that he cannot do…” – H. Rider Haggard.

The mini-bus from Hua Hin to Bangkok takes three hours (or two and a half if the driver thinks he’s Jason Bourne). Early morning, my bag packed with papers and two bottles of chilled water, we walked up to the main road together so she could wave me off.

“What are you doing, farang?” Mrs. B joked.

“Going to the big city to find Matt Damon, lov,” 

As the bus came into view, on time, she chortled: “Send him my love!” 

“Ha, will do! I’ll even Bring Him Home if I can find a pirate copy, heh heh!” 

The bus screeched to a halt. My wife pinched my arm.

“Don’t go meeting any girls up there!” she whispered sternly.

“Perish the thought, lov.”

Time to hold her tight and reassure her. 

“I’ll be back by nightfall. Don’t want to leave you for too long, hon; can’t. You’re the light of my life – the fuel on which I run. If I could reach up and hold a star for every time you’ve made me happy, my darling, the evening sky would be in the palm of my hand.”

“Ooh, get you,” she purred. “Did Matt teach you to talk like that?” 

“Uff, gizzus a hug, me sugar…” 

We shared a quick embrace. The driver started up the engine; I began to clamber in.

“Hey, what are you going to do about lunch?!”

“No worries, lov,” he was heard to exclaim, looking back over his shoulder. “There’s plenty of cake in the big city; I can pick some up there on my way back.”

“Oh for goodness sake, ya daft ham noi! I mean real food!” 

“The cinema will have nachos – Brad will survive…” 

The driver came round to slide the mini-bus door shut.

“I love you,” Mrs. B yelled out.

“I know…” 

"HANG ON IN THERE, BUDDY! You stay alive, no matter what occurs! Brad will find you! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far! I will find you"
“HANG ON IN THERE, BUDDY! You stay alive, no matter what occurs! Brad will find you! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far! I will find you”

to be continued...

What The Flux?: Brad’s Guide to the Future

Happy New Year! Hope you all have a Good One! Not too Heavy!

TDU-BTTF2-A

“There’s that word again: ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” – Dr Emmett L. Brown.   

1984 and 2001 are just two examples of years forever synonymous with visions of the future. As an integral part of SF, visual conceptions of future times are practically inevitable. What better way to start this new blogging year than seeing what lies ahead? Here are some of the futures we can look forward to… 

Naturally, we begin with:

2015: in the “Present Time” – Oct 21 to be exact. Marty McFly will travel from 1985 to sort his kids out. Apparently this year, we can get Home Energy Reactors, Jaws 17, self-drying jackets, hoverboards and flying cars. The latter will also play a major factor come:

November 2019: In permanently-dark Los Angeles, a group of Nexus 6 Replicants have to be hunted down by everyone’s fave Corellian smuggler. 

2022: Overpopulation and the inevitable food shortages mean that the deceased are reprocessed into green Ryvita. Order will be MAINTAINED by a gun-toting (fully-clad) Charlton Heston. 

2029 war

“You see how clever this part is? How it doesn’t require a shred of proof? Most paranoid delusions are intricate, but this is brilliant!” – Dr. Peter Silberman. 

2029: In the War of the Machines, skull-crusher tanks and heavily-armed cyborgs try to vanquish the last vestiges of the human race. A Terminator – inexplicably programmed to speak with an Austrian accent – is sent back to 1984 to terminate the resistance leader’s mother. And hey, Los Angeles is still dark (that’s permanance for you!)

2054: An officer at the Precrimes unit of Minority Report, as described by Philip K. Dick, is accused of a future murder. This has to be a monumental bureaucratic cock-up because that officer is none other than Tom Cruise! 

2077: Would u Adam-an’-Eve it? Tom frickin’ Cruise again! Only this time, the Cruiser is Jack Reacher Harper: one of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth. The movie’s called Oblivion; go figure…

2084: Mars has become colonised in Total Recall, yet-another Philip K. Dick scenario: “We can Remember It For You Wholesale.” Memory implants, Sharon Stone and an Austrian accent. Is there life on Mars? Well, there’s certainly no green Ryvita…

2087: The crew of the Nostromo have to respond to a distress signal from Planet LV426, but unleash a nasty, acid-for-blood Alien. 

HudsonAliens

“Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen!” – Private Hudson. 

2144: Officer Ellen Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, is discovered (after floating in space for 57 years). She becomes “Adviser” to a group of gung-ho Space Marines who get wiped out by a nest of Aliens. At least Mr. Jones (the cat) survived, so that’s nice. Or it could be:

2176: There is an ongoing debate as to precisely when these two films are set. In the Special Edition, a photo of Ripley’s daughter has a date: 2174 (two years previously), which implies that Alien would have to be set in 2119… right? But heck, how can you even think about the time when you have to contend with rampant chest-bursters and face-huggers?!… And it’s another SEVENTEEN DAYS until any rescue-ship arrives?! Game over, man! Game over!   

2150: The Dalek Invasion of Earth ensues. Luckily, Peter Cushing (because William Hartnell was not deemed acceptable to a US audience) and Bernard Cribbins save the Doctor’s favourite planet from the notorious pepper-pots. 

2154: The super-rich live on a space station, while the rest lead a monotonous existence on Earth munching through green Ryvita. Except for Matt Damon who – desperate to cure his radiation sickness – goes in search of Ben Affleck Elysium. 

sleeper

Luna Schlosser: “What’s it feel like to be dead for 200 years?”                                                                  

Miles Monroe: “Like spending a weekend in Beverly Hills.” 

2173: Woody Allen awakes from a 200-year old cryostasis to find that he is Flash Gordon; smoking and deep fat come highly recommended; and his rent is 10,000 months overdue. He could have made a fortune selling green Ryvita in his health food store…

March 22, 2233: James Tiberius Kirk is born, which means that the USS Enterprise mission to boldly go and drag down new life and screw up new civilizations transpired between:

2263-68: When the “original” Star Trek takes place.

2274: Boys get to wear lycra body-suits and the girls don chiffon nighties, holding green Ryvita parties in a 70s City-state, as featured in Logan’s Run, but death is compulsory as soon as they turn 30, hence the Run

2293: Last vestiges of humanity are concentrated around green Ryvita-processing-plant apparently in rural Ireland, overseen by huge flying head known as Zardoz. Embarrassing undies modelled by: Sean Connery…?! (The future looks bleak!)

wilma

“Beedeebeedeebeedee” – Twiki. 

2491: Due to a “freak mishap,” subjected to “cosmic forces beyond all comprehension”, Captain Buck Rogers awakes from 500-year deep-freeze to find that he is Flash Gordon and Earth’s population has been reduced to wearing brightly-coloured spandex.  

3973: The human race has reverted to primitive mute level, while snazzily-dressed (no spandex, thank The Lawgiver!) talking apes have taken over. Curiously enough, there are no Austrian accents… Order will be SCREWED UP by a gun-toting (semi-clad) Charlton Heston. 

10,191: On the distant planet of Dune, Kyle MacLachlan and the Fremen defeat the Emperor of  the Universe with the aid of an incoherent script. And lots of giant worms. Everyone – speaking without talking; travelling without moving – is popping Spice. Pure, unrefined Spice sure beats green Ryvita any day, man… Embarrassing undies modelled by: Sting. (The future looks bleaker!)

802,701: The Earth is a shambles, despite having no guns, no spandex, certainly no sign of any talking apes. No Charlton Heston for that matter. Not only has the Ryvita run out, there is no Spice to be had either! Times don’t get tougher than this. Embarrassing undies modelled by: …what looks like a grotesque bunch of subterranean trolls. (Bleaker than bleakest.) Rod Taylor is left wondering why he travelled so far forward in his Time Machine…

If none of this has made you develop a taste for History instead, nothing will! 

Cheers!