Watching this genre-factory produced sci-fi left me feeling that its faults outweighed its virtues by a solid margin and it was not worth reviewing. Now that it has been controversially nominated for a Golden Globe in the comedy category it is clear to me why it is a profoundly compromised addition to the sci-fi genre. It wants to be a credible tale of mankind’s scientific and dangerous exploration of outer space, with all the usual tropes of shiny buttons, computer screens, weightlessness and the vast black void that holds the secret to the origin of life…and be funny too. Excuse me? Ridley Scott, director of the iconic Blade Runner (1982) should have known better.
It’s a well-worn plotline: a tirelessly glib astronaut Mark Watney is abandoned and presumed dead after a space-storm hits Mars. Behaving as if he simply missed his taxi, he starts home renovations and adds a vegetable farm fertilised by little packets of poo left behind by his departed friends: after all, it could be four years before NASA can send a rescue cab. The orange-tinged Mars landscapes look so earth-like that is sure to dim enthusiasm for future space tourism. At least we know that outer space is deep, but the film’s dialogue is unbelievably shallow. This does not need to be so, as proven by the much-praised Gravity (2013). Mark’s heartfelt message to mom and dad “dying is big and beautiful in space” just does not cut through, and when the Mars crew that left him behind decide to extend the mission for another 533 days in order to collect him, they do so with as much deliberation as they would in choosing pizza topping. Science fiction or comedy, this is neither.
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