THE MARTIAN – Review by Susan Granger

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Back in 1979, Ridley Scott stunned moviegoers with “Alien.” Now the visual storyteller returns to outer space – with a super-suspenseful saga of an astronaut accidentally stranded on Mars. When a colossal dust storm forces the Ares 3 crew to abort their Mars surface exploration, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) orders a hasty evacuation, believing their crewmate, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) has been killed by flying debris. Read on…

But he’s alive, as satellite photography soon reveals. So it’s up to NASA director Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and his cohorts at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to figure out how to help Watney stay alive in the habitation module and rescue him before his food supply runs out.

Fortunately, Watney is a resourceful botanist and courageous problem-solver. After removing the shrapnel lodged in his torso, he’s faced with basic survival tasks and the necessity of perseverance while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

“I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this,” he declares – and proceeds to improvise and innovate, showing a disarmingly acerbic sense of humor. That’s evident when he runs out of ketchup and sprinkles crushed Viocodin on his potatoes. But there are always unforeseen catastrophes.

Screenwriter Drew Goddard (“World War Z”) has adapted Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, as director Ridley Scott meticulously delineates Watney’s ingenuity in his struggle to endure. He’s a plausible Robinson Crusoe, tossing around geek speak terms like hexadecimals and orbital trajectories.

Filmgoers may recall Matt Damon did an uncredited ‘bit’ as a stranded astronaut in “Interstellar” but, here, his charming, utterly convincing performance propels the drama on a desolate planet.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover and Macenzie Davis score as supportive scientists – with a nod to “Lord of the Rings” – while Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie comprise the Ares 3 team.

Reminiscent of solo tales like “Gravity,” “Cast Away” and “Moon,” it should certainly engender enthusiasm for the future of space travel, as NASA strives to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

FYI: Although Ridley Scott invited author Andy Weir to visit the set during filming in Hungary and Jordan, he declined, confessing, “I’m afraid of flying.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Martian” is an exhilarating 8 – an enthralling sci-fi adventure.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.