Damon charms as a stranded as­tro­naut in

The China Post - - ARTS - BY SANDY CO­HEN

With­out Matt Damon, the soli­tary fight for sur­vival on Mars would be lonely in­deed. Alone on screen for most of his scenes as an as­tro­naut stranded on the red planet, the Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tor is the win­ning heart of Ri­d­ley Scott’s epic space ad­ven­ture, “The Mar­tian.”

With Damon’s charm cen­ter stage, Scott has crafted an ex­cit­ing, hope­ful story about hu­man­ity at its best: The bright­est minds work­ing to­gether for a com­mon goal that bridges in­ter­na­tional borders and forges a feel­ing of unity. Af­fa­ble and in­tel­li­gent, play­ful and de­ter­mined, Damon’s Mark Wat­ney is so en­dear­ing and en­ter­tain­ing as a nar­ra­tor and sub­ject, it’s easy to see why the world would want to save him.

The story be­gins with Wat­ney ac­ci­den­tally left be­hind dur­ing a NASA mis­sion to Mars. When a fierce storm forces an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion from the planet, he dis­ap­pears in the chaos and is pre­sumed dead. He isn’t, of course, and as his fel­low astro­nauts mourn him dur­ing their months-long jour­ney back to Earth and NASA of­fi­cials strug­gle with how to ex­plain his death to the public, Wat­ney wakes up, in­jured and alone.

But he’s in­cred­i­bly op­ti­mistic and re­silient. He fixes his wound with mi­nor surgery and im­me­di­ately goes about pro­long­ing his sur­vival, know­ing it could be years be­fore a manned space­craft re­turns to Mars. He puts his skills as a botanist and engi­neer to work, de­vis­ing a way to grow crops in the arid soil and make wa­ter by burn­ing hy­dro­gen. He rewires old equip­ment from a past Mars mis­sion in hopes of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with NASA.

Wat­ney is cu­ri­ous and talk­a­tive, keep­ing him­self com­pany by nar- rat­ing his ev­ery move. He tracks his ob­sta­cles and progress in daily video logs. He chats to him­self in footage from the hel­met cam in his space­suit, crack­ing jokes he knows no one can hear. See­ing his ef­forts through var­i­ous cam­era per­spec­tives — the hel­met cam, a bunk cam in­side his sleep­ing quar­ters, a dash­board cam­era in­side his space rover and the video di­aries where he ap­pears to talk di­rectly to the au­di­ence — adds vis­ual in­ter­est, though Damon would prob­a­bly be just as mag­netic talk­ing to a hand-held cam­era in an empty room.

Mean­while, NASA di­rec­tor Teddy San­ders (Jeff Daniels at his most clin­i­cal) and Mars mis­sion chief Vin­cent Kapoor (Chi­we­tel Ejio­for) learn through satel­lite photos that Wat­ney is alive. As NASA spokes­woman An­nie Mon­trose (a mis­cast Kristin Wiig) scram­bles to pro­tect the agency’s public im­age, the men strate­gize how to bring the stranded as­tro­naut home.

Un­like other re­cent big-screen space trips, the science here is pre­sented sim­ply enough that no sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief or quan­tum leap through the time-space con­tin­uum is nec­es­sary. It all seems plau­si­ble, and au­thor Andy Weir, upon whose novel the film is based, in­sists it is, call­ing it “a tech­ni­cal book for tech­ni­cal peo­ple.” “I had no idea main­stream read­ers would be in­ter­ested at all,” he said.

With Scott at the helm and Damon lead­ing the cast, “The Mar­tian” is ac­ces­si­ble and beau­ti­ful, cin­e­mat­i­cally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally. Even though it’s a big Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion, Wat­ney’s sur­vival re­ally does seem in ques­tion, and au­di­ences will want to join the in­ter­na­tional crowds on screen in cheer­ing for his res­cue.

English with Chi­nese sub­ti­tles An­i­ma­tion, Com­edy, Fam­ily 2015 USA 89 min. Drac­ula and his friends try to bring out the mon­ster in his halfhu­man, half-vam­pire grand­son in or­der to keep Mavis from leav­ing the ho­tel. Di­rected by Gen­ndy

Tar­takovsky With the voices of Adam San­dler, Andy Sam­berg and Se­lena Gomez

Dur­ing a manned mis­sion to Mars, as­tro­naut Mark Wat­ney is left for dead by his team­mates af­ter a fierce storm that forced the team to take off in an emer­gency. Yet, Mark has sur­vived and is now left on his own to sub­sist and find a way to sig­nal to Earth that he is alive.

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