Friday, October 2, 2015

The Martian

This is not meant to be a critic's review of The Martian, which stars Matt Damon, although it might read that way.

Hollywood is taking old music seriously, as Director Joe Gunn did with Guardians of the Galaxy, in Martian we are treated to old disco tunes, which are treated by the main character, Watney, as his backboard for what is supposed to be humorous self entertainment for Watney and witty repartee' for the movie viewer.

It didn't fall on my ears that way, probably because I have seen so many movies and so I expect something different instead of trite formulaic output.

It also is a rehash of several stories, not that this is bad, but it does become somewhat of a distraction when nothing new is offered. The old storylines in The Martian are: Robinson Crusoe (and I suppose to some degree Castaway), Herman Wouk's Caine Mutiny, which in and of itself is a retelling of a true story out of the US Navy, and probably out of old history in other naval settings, and the old story of "we never leave our man behind", which I suppose came out of some battle. Romantic and Hero, but not, for-the-most-part, reality based.

For myself, a somewhat nerdy, science kind of person, what I found interesting was the cobbling together of old tech to make it possible for the lost man to survive, and the creation of new ways to communicate were utilized to achieve the continuation of the rescue story.

The unexpected also came at a good time, spoiler alert, but I won't tell you when.

It also occurred to me how much of a blank canvas an actor has to be, repeating the lines as the script dictates and the way the Director wants them delivered. During the movie my thoughts went to Chris Carter's X-files and how Mulder and Scully deadpanned their lines. Whereas other Directors might ask people to go into a kind of hyperventilation of emotional output for the delivery of lines (think "YOU"RE NOT READY FOR THE TRUTH" as delivered by Jack Nicholson; implying that both characters are at the verge of coming to blows)(Has anyone ever seen lawyers duke it out? Please Hollywood don't do that. Thats just what our justice system needs).

I have heard many of these lines before, which bothered me.

It is my opinion that Kubrick didn't want that, he wanted deadpan line delivery and true tech speak, to achieve reality. And when Kubrick wanted to achieve real suspense he enhanced it with dead silence. For example: Airlocks did not have a sound when it was in a vacuum environment. Hal wasn't going to open the airlock when commanded to (at the time a very different kind of mutiny), and when Dave blew the hinges, no sound was heard. That moment had an impact for the viewer because it was silent. Kubrick framed the beauty of space travel with The Blue Danube in the more laidback, we're-enjoying-flying-through-space scenes. So Kubrick generated a very real scene when Dave had to make his way in silence, silently into Hal's core to dismantle that Artificial Intelligence.

A very different use of audio to achieve the ends of the Director as opposed to The Martian.

It is like a line I read recently states, you can take the Stairway to Heaven or the Highway to Hell. One builds confidently towards an amazing end, the other steamrolls with a kind of pounding confidence. There isn't anything wrong with either, it is how it registers in the long term with the mind that either makes it a jack hammer endorphin laden remembrance to the brain or that we're going to hold our breath to hear the ending properly sung kind of neuron impulse on the grey matter.

I can find my way comfortably with either. But I expected more of The Martian.

And so I make a tangent comment about music today, it is all 4/4 timing. I can't recall the last time I heard a mainstream song in 3/3 or 2/3 timing like a waltz might be.

The Martian stays mainstream by following a typical movie output for a sci-fi genre movie.

The dialogue was also high school tough talk with expletives inserted here and there. As if tough people have to talk tough and use dirty language to make tough decisions and convince others to make tough decisions, and to elevate the importance of the moment with such talk as well.

I am not inclined to think NASA astronauts, let alone astronauts from any country, would do this. Maybe, in an aside moment. It made the movie seem to me to be appealing to high school male thinking.

The 3D was very good, except I now have noticed something about 3D, it seems layered, much like Max and Dave Fleischer created in some Popeye cartoons. This tells you how old I am that I see this. With each layer in The Martian, the layer itself appears to me to be 2 dimensional, as if several layers of 2D were layered together with proper spatial and temporal movement to give the appearance of 3D, but still not quite getting there, especially if you look closely at any given layer.

I picked up on this quickly when Richard Daniels opens the movie with his first lines and the way the camera pulls back, Mr. Daniels has a pasty-grey flat look about him.

But, on Hollywood's side of doing business, I think they choose some not so good repetition of old ways of doing business that they know still work, and sacrifice originality to make big bucks. I can't say I blame them, they are after all the experts; they are the machine.

I balance that though with movies that came out of original thinking like Sylvester Stallone's Rocky. I am sure there are others, but Hollywood has to keep the butter urn churning, and so original dialogue and story lines are few and far between.

I also think that non-sequiturs could have been put into the movie. I suspect Hollywood considers these distractors, and possibly money not wisely spent. Perhaps, or they might be foreshadows of what's to come in the future of a story franchise.

The Martian is a one off, there might be a future retelling of its storyline, but nothing tangent was introduced to tell us we can expect more that will continue this story.

For what its worth,


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