They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

Saving Matt Damon... Again

Alright, let's first get a little humor out of the way. Because the meme posted below is rather funny. Tom Hanks and company ran all over France trying to save Matt Damon. Interstellar's Matt Damon turned out to be a rat not worth saving. And Robinson Crusoe on Mars Matt Damon is stranded after being presumed dead. On the other hand, the CIA spent considerable time through three movies -- and after a hiatus in the fourth -- and now a fifth trying to kill Matt Damon. And Matt Damon goes on a murdering spree as a Talented Mr. Ripley. So it's all confusing. (And funny.)

A cold and gray and windy fall day -- raining late in the afternoon. Apparently a lot of people thought to go to Holland to see a movie. The main handicapped parking spaces at the Holland 7 were full, so I had to roll a little further than usual with the walker.

But... we are so glad to have gone to the Holland 7 to see this. They have just renovated Theatre 5 with all recliners. And I don't mean those awful rocking back chairs which put your neck at the wrong angle and are really hard to get out of, especially when you are handicapped. No, these are big solid recliners, with wide arm rests, metal cup holders and power reclining buttons. For once, I had a solid and comfortable chair that was easy to get in and out of in a movie theatre.

The best part? These recliners have a strong resemblance to the recliners used by NASA at the Cape for suiting up the astronauts -- see Apollo 13 -- which really put me in a good mood to see...

The Martian 3D [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 3:30pm, 2×$9.75 ($8.95 net ***)
And now we have Ridley Scott's The Martian.

In 1968, the greatest science fiction space movie of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, came out. Stanley Kubrick's impeccable filmmaking technique promised to usher in an era of hyperrealistic SF space films for years to come... not. Ron Howard's superb Apollo 13 actually is more realistic, but alas, it's historical and not fiction. (grin) James Cameron's Avatar is an extraordinary 3D CGI movie, but it's not really a space movie. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar was billed as the modern successor to 2001, but came off a little flat as the plot fell apart into non-science nonsense. Sigh. We've been down the road of pretenders to unseat 2001 from the throne -- Peter Hyam's sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact comes close. And lord knows I was embarrassed to follow TIME Magazine's pushing of the Disney movie The Black Hole, which most emphatically was NOT the most realistic space movie ever made. 2008's Moon comes close, amazingly as does the horror space movie Apollo 18, in terms of making you believe that this is a real mission. But they're not 2001.

Andrew Weir's The Martian is a great book -- a tour de force for the space/science/engineering/technical geek reader -- and anticipation amongst my SF friends couldn't have been greater. Even xkcd couldn't believe that the impossible might be about to happen:

The whole cast is great -- Mackenzie Davis, who plays Cameron on Halt and Catch Fire, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor and on and on. But... The burden is completely on Matt Damon to sell this, as he is primarily playing by himself. He narrates some bits with his video logs, has some long range communications and gets verbal warnings from emergency systems. But there's no HAL or GERTY or Lucile or TARS or R2D2 computer or robot sidekicks.

The Martian scenery, whether local or long range, is terribly convincing. And let's face it, according to Wikipedia they really were on Mars: "Wadi Rum had been used as a backdrop for other films set on Mars, including Mission to Mars (2000), Red Planet (2000), and The Last Days on Mars (2013)." They do like their CGI dust devils/tornadic activity + lightning, though. No one mentions the Martian surface gravity, which has an acceleration of g(Mars) of 3.71 m/s² -- just over twice the lunar gravity 1.62 m/s² and about two-fifths of the Earth's 9.81 m/s². In fact, there is no overt mention of the zero-gee and artificial gravity (centripetal acceleration) sections of the Hermes ship. The zero-gee motion, by the way, is fluid but is surely done by wirework -- either on set or green-screened. I was thrown out of the story momentarily by a change of direction to go down one of the axial tubes to an artificial gravity section. Either I missed a push off which would explain the vector change, or they managed to fly in a curved trajectory. (grin)

Special attention has to go to the sets, both on Earth, in space and on Mars. The movie version of Marooned suffered from the same flat paint set dressing that characterized the Original Star Trek series. And Robert Altman's Countdown, contemporary with 2001, is also artificial looking. Here everything looks great. But...

The Hab itself is huge and spacious. Really? NASA would be able to spring for all that space? Note that the Hab sent up in the Canadian mini-series Race to Mars mentioned yesterday is far more cramped. It's not like the Ares III mission was going to be up there long enough to justify all that real estate. As a result of this roominess, it carries over into the airlocks and hatches. I'm expecting a much tighter fit everywhere. Maybe not quite Das Boot U-boats, but certainly not Ohio class SSBN. (double-sized-grin)

But these are nits. Overall, the parts of the book which are portrayed -- and they are never going to get the whole book stuffed into even a 2:20 movie -- are rendered well with little damage. I have worried for sometime about whether a crucial underling at JPL was going to get whitewashed -- he wasn't. The side story with the Chinese space program? It might have been cut, too, but it wasn't.

The tech looks great, from large pieces to sealed Mylar bags to lots of screws to the inevitable and necessary duck tape. There is no doubt this is a movie FOR space geeks and FOR SF/F fans. There are infodumps and technical details which were left in the book -- oh, they're there in the movie, but not mentioned even once. (But we know!) We have left intact the "steely-eyed missile man" reference, which dates back to the Mercury program. And there is a wonderful exchange about the Lord of the Rings, which includes Sean Bean in the room. (!!) This is how my people really talk. (geek-grin)

Is this the most realistic space movie ever? I dunno, 2001 really set the bar with a high escape velocity. But it is by far the most realistic space in a long time, and definitely the most realistic Mars exploration movie made.

Bottom line: There will be plenty of people who will find faults, because they just can't stand civilians claiming that a movie is the most scientifically accurate, when we've been down this road so often and have been as often so disappointed. But at the beginning, I said we had great anticipation regarding The Martian and I just don't think I could've been more pleased -- unless it was a 3:20 movie and not 2:20. Mrs. Dr. Phil figures with Ridley Scott there will be a longer Director's cut. Oh, I'll buy that Blu-Ray, I assure you.

And in case you happen to ask -- Yes, the 3D is very nicely done. Neither in your face or distracting. Just looks good. As you would want it to be.


Trailers: Okay, big budget highly anticipated 3D film? I called the trailers for Star Wars, Mockingjay Part II and James Bond. Three whiffs with the bat -- completely struck out. Bridge of Spies -- Tom Hanks and U2 Incident negotiations in East Berlin. In the Heart of the Sea -- this is the Ron Howard Moby Dick tale, expected at Christmas. Concussion -- Will Smith as a foreign born doctor who ends up trying to take on the NFL regarding repetitive brain injury. Comes out in December, after nearly all the NFL and NCAA and high school football seasons. Of course. Joy -- Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. Young woman coming of age... in the 60s? 70s? I think she was an Eastern Airlines gate agent at one point... Krampus -- Because what would be Christmas without a horror movie about "the other Santa Claus"? Yuck. Also a promo for a Fathom "event" about digging for Noah's Ark -- Finding Noah: An Adventure of Faith -- with the serious guy seriously saying "We will either prove it is here or prove it is not." Well, damn. That surely sounds convincing, doesn't it?

Dr. Phil

*** We usually only buy movie tickets online to get the right seats in the IMAX theatre at Celebration North. However, we were given a Fandango gift card last year, which doesn't work at Celebration, but does work at Goodrich Theatres. We'd used up $20.70 out of $25 to see Avengers: Age of Ultron 3D at the Grand Haven 9(DW) (LJ) back on 4 May -- so we had $4.30 left on the card. Tickets were $19.50, plus the "convenience fee" of $2.70 and minus the $4.30 balance, gave us a net cost of $17.90. We actually saved a buck apiece on the tickets. Thanks, Rebecca!
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Tags: movies, reviews

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