11 October 2015

Has Ridley Scott Gone To Mars And Returned To Form?

Personally I don't think we should be going to Mars. It's too far away, it's expensive, and we've still not been able to explore the absolute depths of our own oceans. I'm sure there's some scientific reason for one day going to the red planet but personally I just want the boffins to find me some freaky shit to stare at. Have you seen some of those crazy fucking fish that are living in the deeper parts of the oceans? They're amazing. They're all crazy colours with massive teeth and tentacle-like dicks on their heads. I mean just look at the giant squid- what the hell is it?! It looks like some sort of biological, satanic sex toy! Even if we do find some sign of life on Mars, it's not going to be as impressive as that. And if it is then I'm pretty sure we run the risk of it being sentient enough to be into the whole anal-probe thing. I don't know about you... but when given the choice of either finding some massive fucking Kraken or having an alien ram its equipment up my arsehole I know which one I prefer.

Alas, nobody ever listens to me and so in The Martian it seems that our planet's brightest and boldest have buggered off to Mars to scrabble around in the dirt. Although if you think Earth doesn't have enough dirt of its own to scrabble around in then clearly you've never wondered about Prime Minister David Cameron's piggy-porn internet search history. Anyway, so some shit goes down on Mars, a storm turns up and the crew are forced to abandon the planet whilst implementing the presumably NASA-approved Pirate rule of “those that fall behind are left behind”. During their evacuation, Matt Damon takes a chunk of flying debris to the chest and gets thrown out of sight like that time Madonna's assistants tried to murder her on live television with a cape. Despite this being a predominantly American crew, none of them know how to deal with bad weather like us Brits do and so none of them think to simply pop a newspaper over their head and just jog out to get him. The entire film therefore is the story of how Matt Damon intends to stay alive on his own whilst NASA attempts to figure out how they're going to bring him home. Despite America's overall insistence that there definitely is a God, both Damon and NASA decide to rely more on science to solve their problems than anything else. Shame really because everything they do seems a lot more expensive than just hoping for some angels to fly him back to Earth like a fucking heavenly version of Easy Jet.

So, to give a bit of backstory, this film was based on a book by a chap named Andy Weir who aimed to make the thing as scientifically accurate as possible. Considering our school only ever seemed to teach us about leaf cells, you could probably fit everything I know about science comfortably into a Sunflower cell's central vacuole. However it seemed that Hollywood liked Weir's brain-scribbles so much that they decided to hire Drew Goddard to write and direct a movie adaptation. Sadly Goddard was forced to leave the project after the script was complete due to his decision to helm The Sinister Six, the Spider-man spin off, instead. Although based on the quality of The Amazing Spider-man, I can't help but compare making a decent spin-off of that franchise to watching Damon survive on Mars by growing potatoes out of his own shit. Either way, Goddard left allowing a cosmic combination of both fate and Hollywood's money to draw esteemed director Ridley Scott to the project as his replacement. For those who don't know, Scott made two of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time before churning out a couple of duffers more recently. Blade Runner's Roy Batty might have “seen things you people wouldn't believe” but I bet he hasn't seen anything as awful as the reviews for Scott's The Councillor.


With Prometheus still fresh in the memory and the director's insistence that his next few films will be yet more Alien prequels, it seems that Ridley Scott sci-fi films are like buses. You wait several years for one and then the first one turns up full of space-snakes and fucking morons. Prometheus contains some of the stupidest humans I've seen in space since George Lucas cast a cupboard door as Anakin Skywalker and had Padme die of shame. However, by stark contrast, The Martian doesn't entertain us by showing the idiotic deaths of people running four miles length ways to avoid being crushed by a falling rocket when they could have just taken five steps sideways. Instead it actually does follow through on its promise of sticking as close as it can be arsed to science and simply showing what humans can achieve when baking their noodles. There's no obvious villain, with the film's antagonist literally being the shower of shite that life can be, and the constant chance that death is going to fuck you up the arse. Sure there are some inaccuracies in the movie but nothing worth getting your bollocks in a twist over.

According to interviews, the storm that traps Damon on the planet would technically be impossible within the Martian atmosphere, and the gravity is wrongly depicted as being the same as here on Earth. Since the film's release, it's also been announced that those real-life and cunning scientists have discovered evidence of flowing water on Mars. Like Saddam Hussain, it seems that the crafty liquid may have been hiding under ground as ice all along. Not that Hussain had turned into ice obviously, and not that we're going to hang the water for war crimes now we've found it. But you know.. they both hid underground is my point... So had Damon's spaceman been as smart as he thought he was, he wouldn't have hooked all of his science shit up and started doing complex experiments to avoid dehydrating. He'd have just gone outside with a bucket and spade and started digging like a child on the beach. But at the end of the day, my scientific knowledge is smaller than the three quarks that you'll find when splitting open the proton and neutron of an atom... so who really gives a shit!

From what I have read, it seems that the film doesn't stray too far from the accuracy of the original book, and the book doesn't stray too far from the facts. The genius of this movie is that it sells its science in an entertaining way, whilst making everything that NASA and Damon do seem both as complex as it is whilst still being completely easy to follow. When asked how he'd managed this, Scott claimed it was probably due to his background in advertising in which you obviously have to sell a concept to the broadest possible audience. I guess making space-travel palatable should be easy enough for a man that made his name by making an interesting advert about fucking Hovis bread. This 'easily digestible' emphasis on what people can do with their skull-mush also makes this one of the more interesting 'triumph of the human will' type movies in a long time. Damon's character doesn't sink into an Oscar-baiting depression just hoping that somebody can help him. He keeps his spirits as high as he can and he just cracks the fuck on with solving the problems that he needs to.. to avoid having his eyes pop out of his fucking head.

I mean I loved the film Gravity, but Sandra Bullock's character definitely seemed a bit too much like she had a wasp up her arse for somebody whose job involved going into space. It's not like working in the local shop were you're counting down the seconds until home-time whilst hoping the customers die of some sort of degenerative cancer. Damon's character is the best of the best and as such knows that his survival depends on him not being a sour-faced bitch. As a result of this, not only is his character great fun, but the film too is a lot funnier than you'd expect from a director who traumatised a generation by having a giant cock-monster burst out of John Hurt's chest in Alien. Scott instead chose to highlight the character's isolation by simply showing him completely alone against the vast lonely chasm of Mars, rather than having him become a miserable fuck. Although comedy might not be that associated with the director, world-building definitely is. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that the planet itself looks absolutely phenomenal. I suppose this is a piece of piss for someone like Scott though. If he can make the neon world of Blade Runner or ancient world of Gladiator, then finding a couple of fucking rust-coloured mountains shouldn't be too much of a pain in the balls for him.

Either way though, thanks to a combination of great visuals, a great cast, and a great script, The Martian is one of Scott's best movies literally in years. I mean, it is just essentially Cast Away on Mars but having replaced Wilson for a webcam and adding a funky disco soundtrack. But the whole movie is so tense and fun that it's hard not to enjoy. In many ways, this is kind of the opposite of Prometheus which had pretentious characters doing stupid things to try and solve life's most existential questions. This movie has a few cool characters doing smart things to get one guy home from work after accidentally signing himself up for the longest shift ever. If NASA thinks funding a rescue mission to Mars is expensive then wait until they realise that they've got to pay this twat for about four years overtime. As of the film's release, Scott has been telling every journalist that asks that he's going to personally direct at least two, but maybe three more Alien prequels next. This sounds ambitious to me, not because Prometheus failed to receive the warmest of welcomes, but because Scott is 77 years old as it fucking is. To quote Blade Runner's Roy Batty again however, with his renewed energy you can't help but assume Scott must be thinking “I need more life, fucker”. However if The Martian is anything to go by then I'm more than excited to see anything that the old genius wants to make next. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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