Knee-jerk review: "The Martian"

1. It was a great book, but at times a little too Robinson Crusoe wonky when it came to explaining scientific minutiae.  The book takes pages to explain steps in making oxygen or growing food in the Martian soil.  It was our only real criticism of the novel.  The movie, of course, takes care of that problem. You get a taste of the science, yes, but the 2-hour running time means a good chunk of detail gets tossed to keep things moving.
2. Matt Damon is great, of course, but his character is so good-natured and cool-and-collected that it's a jarring - and effective - moment when he understandably starts to break down towards the end of the movie.
3. Donald Glover's Asperger's scientist feels a little gratuitous, especially in that it seems like he's doing a spoof of his old co-star Danny Pudi's character of NBC's "Community."
4. Some have compared it to Cast Away.  We get it.  But, to us, it's more like Apollo 13 in that a horrible problem is slowly and surely solved by smart, creative, determined math-geek scientists.
5. And that's the best part of the movie.  All of the math.  It's science and numbers that saves Damon's character and the movie actually shows him repeatedly putting pen to paper to work out calculations.
6. Hexadecimals.  Never heard of it.  So we would have died up there.
7. Going to the moon took days.  A Mars mission would take years.  That's a serious commitment not just of manpower and money, but the lives of the astronauts.
8. Michael Pena's always fun and interesting, but we're still trying to figure out the enduring appeal to casting directors of Jessica Chastain.  She's not really ever bad, but she's just so brittle and closed off.
9. Bonus points for the use of 1970s disco on the soundtrack.
10. The focus of the movie is the plot.  There's not a lot of the sweeping and spectacular "ooh!" special effects shots you might expect in a Ridley Scott science fiction movie.
11. The Hermes ship is pretty cool, though.
12. Speaking of Scott, he's in his 70s.  How much longer can he do this? His movies may not always be good, but they are always compelling on some level.  Three of his movies are, to us, among the best ever made: Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise.  This one's probably a close fourth.

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