Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Martian

This morning I saw The Martian, starring Matt Damon and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

There is a NASA mission to Mars that gets interrupted by a terrible sandstorm. Because of the severity of the weather, the commander of the ship, Melissa (Jessica Chastain), chooses to have the team abort the mission. As the evacuation begins, the botanist on board, Mark (Damon), gets hit with debris and is presumed dead. The other astronauts safely continue their mission, mourning his loss.

But he didn't die. He was injured and knocked out, but very much alive.

And there we begin ... the nerve-wracking 2+ hours of seeing if he can successfully grow food, navigate unpreventable disasters, make contact with NASA and keep his sanity. It's a tough ride, but one we've been on before.

Reminiscent of films like Gravity and Moon, the film centers around the solitude of the main character, but at least here we have a balance of scenes with the folks back home. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a fantastic performance as the Mars head-honcho, though Kristen Wiig, as an essential NASA employee seems displaced. Damon is predictably solid, as is the always-badass Chastain.

Sure, it's interesting to watch the scientific process for how to make food if you're ever stranded on a deserted planet. It's undoubtedly enjoyable to see the kinship amongst astronauts rivaling that of soldiers at war. But what keeps it from being a "great" American film is the crime of formula.

We know what's going to happen every step of the way, even if we're not sure how they're going to get there.

The characters were likeable, the situation of the initial accident very believable, but the outcome was terribly predictable.

Go see it if you want a fun ride, but not if you're seeking something new.


Steve Jobs

Two weeks ago I saw Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.

I fully admit that I've always been "a Mac." My first computer was a Strawberry Fields-colored iMac and every computer I've since owned has also been a Mac. I'm a very satisfied customer. I'm also faithful to Apple—owning both iPods and iPhones in my time. Again, having no regrets.

So perhaps I went into this film with a bias in favor of its subject.

That really shouldn't matter because I'll be the first to say it's not a perfect film. The main thing that bugged me was the fact that they really didn't care to stick too close to the truth. The entire film is structured around launches that were important in the tech legend's career, yet most of the situations surrounding them (with the exception of the public-facing moments) never happened. True, Jobs (Fassbender) had a rocky relationship with his daughter Lisa. True, his marketing maven Joanna (Winslet) was one of the few people who could call him on his BS. Not true, business partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) approached him before each launch and argued in public.

There are other sentimental details that were all the work of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, but I won't mention them here in case you'd like to immerse yourself in the fake magic.

All of that aside, of course the acting is phenomenal. Fassbender and Winslet should do more films together because their chemistry crackles. The writing style is classic Sorkin, meaning it's never boring and always more fast-paced than most people have time to project. It's fun to watch, regardless of what you thought of the man or the myth.

It will come as no surprise that I regard Jobs as a genius, and greatly respect his legacy. Perhaps I'll have to wait for a documentary to see the perspective I'm craving.