— Oy vey! ~ An epic piece of Wishful Thinking

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

by Alex Deleon, stranded in Hungary
Viewed October 09, 2015, in 3D at Cineplex, Györ, in dubbed Hungarian version. Director, Ridley Scott, RT 141 minutes. A Twentieth Century Fox release.

SITUATION: The not too distant future where planet Mars has not only been reached from Earth but where NASA has already set up a more or less permanent Space Station from which the surface of the red planet is being explored for potential colonization by refugees from Earth. A gigantic sandstorm comes up and the exploratory NASA spaceship has to blast off to escape while they can. In the storm one of the crew is lost and left behind for dead — the indestructible Eathling, Mark Watley (Matt Damon) —

When it is found that he has survived a desperate rescue mission is organized To Bring him back Alive …(Echoes of Frank Buck) — Well, To start with, the Hungarian title “Mentőexpedició” (Rescue Mission) is far more apt than the misleading cheap-shot American original “The Martian” — which might lead one to suspect that this is a picture about Red blooded Aliens from the Red Planet when, in fact, this is Reality Sci-fi and, let’s face it; Matt Damon is as purely down-to-earth American as the all American boy, Jack Armstrong — and equally red-blooded, as we shall see in an early scene where Matt, with professional surgical dexterity, deftly (and painfully) removes a heavy metal shard embedded in his side during the furious Martian sandstorm that opened the picture and left him stranded there for the next two hours. Brain surgery self- taught — right? Well, heck ~ wasn’t Matt a self-taught PhD mathematician in “Good Will Hunting” (1997), so, why not a skillful self-taught surgeon eighteen years later?

To add to the other-worldliness, the picture was filmed entirely in Hungary, in and around Budapest, except for the outdoor Martian landscapes which were filmed in the other worldly deserts of Jordan right here on Earth. The new ultramodern Budapest Music Center “MuPa” on the Danube served as the location for the Chinese Space Ministry in Peking, and the plaza out front for the Square in Beijing where Chinese throngs cheer the Rescue mission on before a worldwide TV hookup. Also for the interiors of the NASA command center in Houston. All the other spaceship and astro-interior scenes were shot at the state-of-the-art KORDA studios just outside of Budapest. Wouldn’t Stanley Kubrik be jealous if he were around today to see such facilities available for such Megascale screen fireworks? — and what would this film have looked like if Kubrick had made it …

Now, don’t get me wrong ~~ I am not knocking the picture itself, which I enjoyed thoroughly in 3D at a state of the art Hungarian cineplex — even dubbed into Hungarian which didn’t matter much in a movie where the dialog is secondary, and may even have muttered out some of the incidental trivial chitchat back at NSA HQ, inserted to make the product more palatable to the Sitcom trained masses. Damon was endearing as a stranded space age All-American astronaut and is being pipped for Oscaramity 2016 — but any other competent actor (e.g., Cruise, Depp, Denzil, Pitt) could have done as well given the one dimensional material — not to knock Matt who is gaining versatility with maturity.

Fantastic special effects with that special Ridley Scott large-scale touch (Think, Blade Runner, 1972, or ALIEN, 1979) and credible (if not 100 % accurate) scientific detailing on space travel, some interesting side roles back on Earth, and a subtle call for more cooperation with RED China, coupled with the sneaky feeling that, at the rate we are currently destroying our own planet we better find another one pretty soon, Mars being our current best bet — make this movie a winner from stem to stern, given the usual suspension of belief required when viewing such an epic piece of wishful thinking. Think again: Already — if you have the bucks — you can sign up for a privately funded Earth orbiting space tour. Can The Moon or Mars be that far off …

Alex, Györ, Hungary Ocober 11, 2015

The Martian - Matt Damon
The All American Boy on Mars — “How do I get my ass outta here?”

Alex Fargo
Feature by Alex Farba


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